Bespoke IT system helps university trace finances

Brunel University has built a new software system to help it track the finances of its 14,000 students.

Brunel University has built a new software system to help it track the finances of its 14,000 students.

The bespoke finance system, Sits, which has been developed with accounting software supplier Symmetry, will record tens of thousands of payments made from students, such as tuition fees and the amount they owe the university.

Brunel's student finance system integrates with its accounting and cash receipts systems in the finance department. The previous system was too slow, required manual intervention by staff and did not integrate with other software applications in the finance department, according to Brunel.

The new student finance system runs on an Oracle 9i database and uses an in-house integration technology called Easylink to provide exchange information in real time between the university's student finance system and its main accounting software system.

"It was a bit of a nightmare trying to keep a handle on student debt," said Tony Holloway, finance director at Brunel University, who was responsible for choosing and delivering the new system.

"With the introduction of our student finance package we also needed the capability to share information between accounting and a central database, so that students could easily see their current financial status."

Benefits of the new student finance system include being able to produce monthly management reports within a single day - compared to three days under the old system - and reducing the amount of paperwork for finance staff.

"The ability to distribute financial data at regular intervals is a great boon for all departments, because they are more aware and in control of issues such as cash flow and budget, which minimises the risk of over- or under-spending," added Holloway.

The student finance system can also produce tailored reports for different recipients, such as a high-level report for the vice-chancellor of the university, or more detailed, drill-down reports for the head of a department.

Brunel plans to develop the student finance system to include a web-based service so students can check balances and other account information online.

Symmetry plans to offer the software to other universities.

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