Implications of Enterprise Resource Planning Systems for Universities: An Analysis of Benefits and Risks
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Significant changes are occurring in the nature and role of the university as a consequence of developments in knowledge and ICTs and also as a broader consequence of broader social and economic transformations. Transformations that have been occurring within higher education within recent years - for instance, the student population has increased by 40 per cent during the 1990's – are now having important consequences for the organisation, management, and administration of universities (cf. Scott, 1995; Schuller, 1995). Moreover, with the move to ‘modularity’, credit systems, semesters, auditing and the like, changes have been necessary across the whole institution (cf. Newby, 1999). Among such changes are increasing pressures for better management and administration processes and for universities to operate less according to conventional structures and more as modern, flexible ‘organisations’. Given that universities are expected to perform many more functions than has traditionally been the case, there are increasingly strong pressures to develop information systems that can handle the increasingly complex needs of universities (cf. JISC, 1995). In many cases universities are not building these systems anew, nor are they acquiring them from the many suppliers who specialise in the higher education market but, rather, they are turning to, and preferring to modify and customise software widely used by large corporations, typically Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems. However, while universities choose these packages because of their economic benefits they are potentially a costly and high-risk strategy.