Queen Alexandra College

Queen Alexandra College (QAC) is a Specialist College located in Birmingham. The college welcomes students from all over the country – including many who are local.

QAC has been at its current location since 1903 and offers a variety of courses for students aged between 16 and 25. The original purpose was to provide education for young people who were blind or visually impaired. Today, in addition to supporting those with a visual impairment, it now offers support and guidance for students on the Autistic Spectrum (including individuals with Asperger’s syndrome), those with moderate to severe learning difficulties, and those with physical disabilities or other needs.  There are 300 students studying at QAC, including around 30 who are residential.

Following a recommendation from colleagues in another charity, the Finance Director, Rob Semple approached Freeman Clarke for help with QACs IT. Richard Veys was appointed as (Fractional) IT Director to undertake an initial review and to subsequently refresh the approach to IT and its relationship with the rest of the college.

Initially the focus was on the college’s significant network performance issues, a sprawl of physical servers and concerns over whether the existing data security was adequate.

Key to the strategy was modernising and updating the infrastructure, applications and security.  In additional, Richard saw the need for improved strategic control over IT. Regular meetings with key management were set up to facilitate a formal sharing of information and professionalising the IT team’s day to day approach was also made a focus.

As part of the strategy, a road map was developed with the senior management team through a series of workshops.  The road map identified a number of changes including the need for a rethink in the organisational structure of the department and the way the IT was delivered.  This has meant a training and development programme for the IT staff so they can fulfil the newly identified roles at the college.

In addition to the core educational work, QAC has a commercial or enterprise group, that amongst other activities creates secure documents for banks in large format and Braille.  The banks required a much higher level of security for processing this data and this meant a drive for much stronger cyber security and stricter processes whilst trying to improve efficiency in this enterprise department.

Rob Semple commented:

“Security of data and the need to safeguard our students has meant a considerable tightening of web monitoring, filtering and scanning of data flows around the college.”

There is still much to do to improve the systems and use of data across the college and its satellites, but we have a roadmap for the next few years that is cost effective, structured and deliverable thanks to Richard.”