Federation University Australia (FedUni) operates in a competitive market where fee deregulation and pure online providers are among the factors that challenge enrolment numbers and drive the requirement to halt the decline in student retention.  This is where one of the core principles in IT is key – Information is an asset.

 The university sits on plenty of data but that data was dispersed across various locations, through many systems, in multiple databases including PeopleSoft, Oracle, Postgress, MS SQL, Access, and in Excel and CSV files. The mass of data residing in social media formed another great pool, but these sources were hard to access and not joined up. “We couldn’t easily identify which students were vulnerable: imagine the positive effect on student retention if we could use that material to give us insight into their individual situation? What is driving them, and what is holding them back, what else can we do to support them? What a personalised experience our student and teachers will have with such support and insight,” says Andrew Tully, CIO.

To address this the ITS team turned to fraXses, a UK based company that has sounded the death knell for the traditional data warehouse. As a start fraXses explored and discovered the data repositories to establish what data existed, creating a single view by federating the different sources.

It created what he describes as a ‘mature view of institutional data’, which at last brought some clarity to management, underpinning decisions realising the value of data. “Further to this, we’re constructing our ‘Intelligent Data Lake’ to enhance big data functionality.” In adopting this targeted approach and maximising

its information assets, Tully scored a first. “FedUni was the first university to embrace Federated Data Virtualisation to get big data at our fingertips,”

he says. “We leapfrogged over the traditional data warehouse model saving the University from significant investment. FedUni is breaking the mould”. Also, the ability to personalise data has affected more than just the human assets of the university – it has allowed it to take a more targeted approach to upgrading its assets, saving a lot of money – another lean initiative if you like.