The Victorian Auditor-General's Office (VAGO) has revealed that one of its focus areas over the next two years will be student management systems at Victorian public universities. The performance audit will look at a selection of projects and consider the effectiveness and efficiency of the IT systems put in place to manage student information.

What does VAGO do in the ICT space?

Two years ago, VAGO introduced a specialised Information Systems Audit team, reflecting the fact that more than $3 billion is spent on Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in the Victorian public sector each year. The team works closely with financial audit teams to review information systems and controls, and also engages in data mining and analysis.

During the 2015-16 financial year, the Information Systems Audit team intends to conduct specific ICT performance audits in a number of areas, including examining the effectiveness and efficiency of student management systems at Victorian universities.

Why is this an area of focus for VAGO?

In VAGO's 2015-16 Annual Plan, the Auditor General said that there is a lack of clarity about whether the public has benefited from the considerable investment made in upgrading and renewing student management IT systems, which has cost between $20 and $30 million per university application.

The plan made specific reference to 'some notable issues in terms of implementation and in some cases a failure to meet the expected business and educational outcomes'.

What are the implications for Higher Education institutions nationally?

Scrutiny of public sector IT expenditure is increasing nationally, in the wake of well-documented high profile project failures such as the Queensland Health payroll system, NSW's electronic transport ticketing system T-Card, and the Victorian Government's HealthSMART e-health project.

It is clear that Higher Education sector IT projects will not avoid the spotlight. We expect that other states will follow Victoria's lead, whether through similar audit office scrutiny or the introduction of requirements to publicly disclose information regarding budget, schedule and quality parameters.

What other ICT issues are relevant to the Higher Education sector?

Among other priorities, VAGO intends to continue a limited digital dashboard status review of major ICT projects and initiatives which commenced in 2014-15. This will eventually become redundant once the Victorian Government's own public IT project dashboard commences operating. The development of the dashboard is currently scheduled to be completed by March 2016. The dashboard will publicly disclose the ongoing cost and status of the state's biggest technology projects using a red, amber and green traffic light system. It is based on similar systems implemented by the Queensland State Government and, most famously, the United States Government.

VAGO also identified 'managing TAFE ICT systems' as a future potential audit topic for 2016-17 and beyond, which would focus on how well TAFE institutions are managing core ICT systems including student management and learning management systems.