Paris, October 1993: EUNIS creation Board

Minutes of the FIRST board of Directors

14th-15th October, Paris, France

At a meeting in Paris on 14/15 October 1993 it was agreed to establish an organisation called EUNIS which will bring together those responsible for the management and development of information systems for higher education in Europe. The decision to proceed was made by representatives of eight countries who were present at the meeting. Representatives from three other countries who were not present at the meeting expressed support.

The meeting determined the aims of EUNIS and considered organisational questions. A programme of activities for the next two years was drawn up. A meeting to review progress will be held in London in April 1994.

The Need for a European Organisation

In a number of European countries there are already national organisations which exist to represent those responsible for the management and development of information systems for higher education. The need to create a European-wide organisation in addition to these can be justified as follows:-

(1) There will be considerable benefit from information dissemination and interchange across national boundaries. The level of network provision now makes this a feasible proposition and interchange of experiences and knowledge will be of benefit in areas of common interest.

(2) A single European approach to the suppliers of hardware, software and networking products will be beneficial. Although the size of the European market is similar to that of the US, there is evidence that costs of products are higher in Europe. One reason for this is that many suppliers foresee the European market not as a single one but as one made up of 20 or so individual national markets.

(3) Although much funding of information systems in higher education remains at a national level there is an increasing amount provided at a European Community level. A transnational organisation would be an appropriate one to seek to influence and participate in such initiatives.

(4) The level of use of information systems in higher education varies significantly from one European country to the next. The existence of the proposed European organisation will provide an opportunity for less well developed countries to learn from the experience of the more advanced ones.

(5) There are a number of existing European initiatives particularly in the area of networking. The interests of the users of these systems as opposed to the providers are not fully covered and the proposed organisation would help overcome this problem.

For these reasons the meeting in Paris addressed the following question:-

“Should an organisation be established which brings together those who are involved in the management and development of information systems within higher education in Europe”.

Previous History

In the past, a number of efforts were made to explore the possible benefits of a European organisation. In 1989, a group of European delegates attending the Educom Conference in Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA met to consider whether they should try to establish an organisation similar to Educom in Europe. Educom brings together all those responsible for the information systems in Universities in the United States. The meeting in Ann Arbor was broadly supportive and at a subsequent meeting in February 1990 a proposal was formulated and funding sought from the European Community. However, this was unsuccessful and a less ambitious approach was considered.

In 1991 two meetings took place between the national organisations representing the providers of information systems in Universities in the UK and Germany. However, the main impetus for this current initiative was in March 1993 at a meeting in Amsterdam where representatives from the national organisations from France, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK met to consider the value of a European organisation. It was agreed that steps should be taken to establish a European organisation and that a meeting should be held with a wider group of nations to explore the work such an organisation would do and how it would be organised. This subsequent meeting was held in Paris in October 1993.

Paris Meeting

The meeting in Paris was attended by representatives from the following eight countries:-

Belgium

Denmark

Finland

France

Germany

Ireland

Netherlands

United Kingdom.

In addition, positive messages of support were received from representatives from the following countries who were unable unfortunately to attend the meeting:-

Austria

Norway

Switzerland.

The meeting considered the following five questions.

(1) Is an organisation necessary?

(2) What would be its aims?

(3) What structure would it take?

(4) What programme of activity would it undertake over the first two years?

(5) How would it be funded?

The meeting agreed to proceed with the establishment of an organisation which was given the name EUNIS. The aims of EUNIS and its programme of activity were then agreed and these are given in the next sections.

EUNIS

EUNIS is an organisation founded by those responsible for the management and development of information systems in higher education establishments in Europe.

The aim of EUNIS is to:

  • encourage the communication and transfer of information between information systems providers in higher education establishments in Europe
  • to undertake discussions and representations with suppliers of information systems products
  • to seek to influence various organisations within Europe which are responsible for information systems and for their funding.
EUNIS Programme of Work 1993-95

The following activities will be undertaken by EUNIS:-

(1) A distribution network will be established between national members of EUNIS via a national information officer. Initially, this officer will be responsible for the dissemination of information within his/her own country.

(2) Membership of EUNIS will be extended by making contact with representatives of those other countries with which no contact had been made at the Paris conference. In particular, major efforts will be made to include countries from Southern and Eastern Europe.

(3) It was agreed to organise a European Congress in October 1995 with the theme “European Co-operation in Higher Education Information Systems”. A committee to organise this Congress was established.

(4) It was agreed to bring the existence of EUNIS to the attention of various relevant organisations by distributing a short report.

(5) All present at the Paris meeting agreed to report back to their national organisations to ensure support of EUNIS at that level.

(6) It was agreed to meet again in London in April 1994 to review progress and to consider success in involving other countries.

From an organisational point of view, it was agreed that EUNIS would continue with an unofficial steering group made up of those present at the Paris meeting. Representatives of other countries would be added as they became involved. Representation would be through national organisations where these exist.

The meeting considered the financial requirements of EUNIS and recognised that in the first instance these would be limited. It was assumed that all conference/congress activities would be self funding.

Robin McDonough