The e-Framework Partnership for Education and Research - A Briefing Paper
The e-Framework for Education and Research was founded on the basis of the recognition of common
strategic priorities in a specific work area by JISC and the Department of Education, Science and Training
(DEST). This formed the basis of the e-Framework Technical Approach. Since that point, the Partnership
has continued to develop and evolve.
In 2007 the New Zealand Ministry of Education / Te Tahuhu o te Mātauranga and SURF (Netherlands)
agreed to participate in the partnership. In the Summer of 2009, SURF determined that it would prioritise
European partnership activity, and withdrew from the e-Framework Partnership, although maintaining its
partnership with the JISC directly, and through the Knowledge Exchange.
The same period saw significant change in New Zealand, with the direct participation of the Te Puna o te
Mātauranga / National Library of New Zealand, and the New Zealand Education Sector Standing
Committee. The New Zealand Ministry of Research, Science and Technology (MoRST), together with
Manaaki Whenua / Landcare Research is participating in an e-Framework joint project in the geospatial
domain. In Australia, a major reorganisation has led to the abolition of DEST, and the creation of the
Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) and the Department of
Innovation, Industry, Science and Research (DIISR). The responsibilities of DEST which related to the e-
Framework Partnership are divided between the two agencies. DEEWR continues to be represented on
the e-Framework Partnership Strategy Board. The Department is currently discussing the shape of future
partnership activity with DIISR, with the perspective of their inclusion in the partnership.
Trajectory and Direction
In the late July 2008, Ian Dolphin, Head of e-Strategy at the University of Hull was seconded from Hull as
Director of the international Partnership for a three year period. In November 2008, with the adoption of a
new workplan, the e-Framework made an interim modification to its name, becoming the e-Framework
Partnership for Education and Research.
This marked the start of a process of significantly changing the focus of the Partnership to a more general
strategic level. The participating agencies recognise that they face a range of similar challenges and
issues, albeit in widely differing national contexts, and that it may be possible to mitigate, or ameliorate
the impact of the global recession on innovation to support education and research through international
collaboration. Whilst the process of change in the partnership is far from complete, it has already resulted
in a revised mission statement; "Collaborating to realise the strategic potential of Information and
Communication Technology for Education and Research" and supporting profile (at http://www.e-
framework.org/AbouttheInitiative/tabid/688/Default.aspx ), together with early exchanges around common
approaches to specifications and standards bodies. A collaborative project in the geospatial domain is in
the late stages of planning, and exchanges of strategic approaches to Open Educational Resources
(OER) are currently taking place. The Partnership has determined that the principle of subsidiarity will
govern the activities it seeks to engage in; the Partnership will generally only undertake activities which
could not better be dealt with at a national or local level.
Priority areas of international e-Framework activity, other than the validation of existing technical work,
until January 2010, include;
(i) Peer review of the strategic approaches of participating agencies. An early major example of this is
the invitation of partner agencies to comment on the draft JISC Strategy.
(ii) Facilitating exchanges around international experiences of approaches to Enterprise Architecture,
particularly around business function and process modelling. This is of particular current interest to
New Zealand (at a Ministry level) and the JISC, but is of growing interest in Australia at both a
Department and institutional level.
(iii) Commencing the e-Framework Geospatial Soils Demonstrator; a project which will produce user-
facing modelling and simulation tools drawing on secure, service-enabled interoperability between
different Spatial Data Infrastructures. This project builds on existing collaboration between EDINA,
Manaaki Whenua / Landcare Research, and Australian Geospatial specialists.
(iv) Agreeing practical steps for joint activity in relation to educational specifications and standards
bodies, such as IMS Global and ISO SC36, and consulting respective communities around the merits
of collaboratively providing an education and research “voice” in targeted “general” specifications and
standards bodies such as OASIS.
(v) Transferring the e-Framework Partnership website from the University of Southern Queensland to
UKOLN at the University of Bath. Radically reworking the website to reflect changes in the Partnership
and its activities, centering around the primary target audiences of Senior, Strategic Manager, Middle
Technical Manager and Software Developer/Integrator.
The Partnership will continue to discuss, exchange perspectives, and evaluate the potential of what may
be useful joint activity areas within education, research and administration in the months before the next
face to face Partnership meeting in January. It is likely that discussion of future priorities at an
international level will feature how exchanges around governance and change management issues might
be facilitated and organised. International Partners have expressed considerable interest in specific areas
of JISC activity, including the Flexible Service Delivery Programme. The progress of that Programme will
be reported to them as it continues to develop. Similarly, the Partners will be given access to the
Innovation Base, and their perspectives solicited as it is evaluated. Given that the objective of the
Innovation Base is to share less formal artefacts than those shared through the e-Framework Knowledge
Base, their perspectives in this respect may be particularly valuable.
The e-Framework Partnership will, through its Director, engage in coming months with the “Future of
Higher Education” discussion currently taking place between Educause, JISC, CAUDIT and SURF. As the
e-Framework Partnership proceeds to redefine and articulate its role as an international forum or alliance
for those engaged at a strategic level with ICT supporting education and research, it is sensible to consult
and engage as broadly as is feasible.
Feedback from the Committee on these priorities, and suggestions for other areas of work to explore
within the international partnership would be most welcome.
The e-Framework initiative grew from work undertaken in the early years of this decade to develop
systems and tools to support learning and teaching. At that time, it appeared to many practitioners that
there was considerable danger of those systems being implemented in ways which were technology-
driven, or driven by a single, predominant pedagogical approach, rather than facilitating a diversity of
such approaches. The parallel emergence of service oriented approaches to systems architecture,
together with specifications and standards for web services, offered considerable promise in terms of the
desired flexibility. This perspective was summarised in a 2004 paper - “Service Oriented Frameworks” -
which is available from http://www.e-framework.org/Resources/Papers/tabid/698/Default.aspx
As the early work of analysis and design progressed, it became apparent that it was difficult or impossible
to separate “Learning and Teaching” from “Research”, “Administration”, or, for that matter “Libraries” in
terms of understanding, design or implementation. It seemed apparent, also, that the desire for more
agile and flexible systems was not limited to the area of Learning and Teaching, but was increasingly
articulated across the Higher Education Enterprise. Similarly, one of the promises of a service-oriented
approach, that of the elimination of redundant code and potential for software re-use, could not be
achieved, or could be approached only with great difficulty by being limited to a specific organisational
silo. The vision guiding this initial work was to create an approach which..
“Allows diversity with cohesion through enabling implementations to leverage widespread practice without
compromising specific community or organisational requirements.”
(Service Oriented Frameworks, ibid)
The intention, therefore, was to create a service oriented approach which was domain and technology
neutral; which enabled the transfer of experience from domain to domain, and community to community
within education and research, without impeding the realisation of specific solutions.
The significant scale of the problem space provided a compelling rationale for collaboration, and
collective international engagement. The e-Framework for Education and Research, a partnership of Joint
Information Systems Committee in the UK, and the Department of Education Science and Technology
(DEST) in Australia, was founded in 2005 as a result.
Whilst the e-Framework Partnership was formed around a desire to form a shared understanding of
strategic technology area, as work in that area progressed it has been accompanied by reflections on the
nature of the partnership itself, and the other benefits such a partnership might achieve. It may be useful,
therefore, to treat the e-Framework initiative from this point as two distinct, but related, high level strands
of activity; the e-Framework Technical Approach, and the e-Framework Partnership as a strategic
relationship of like, or broadly similar, agencies.
The e-Framework Technical Approach
Early in the Partnership, the e-Framework articulated a high level series of goals and principles for the
core technical activity it undertook;
“The primary goal of the e-Framework is to facilitate technical interoperability within and across education
and research through improved strategic planning and implementation processes.
A set of principles guides the development of the e-Framework:
A service oriented approach to system and process integration
Development, promotion and adoption of Open Standards
Community involvement in development of the e-Framework
Open collaborative development activities
Flexible and incremental deployment”
( “The e-Framework for Education and Research” from http://www.e-
At a high level, the e-Framework Technical Approach has sought to;
Provide a standardised means of describing services which is technology, domain and work area
Focus specifically on the ways in which common specifications and standards are used to
achieve interoperability in practice
Capture the early community experiences of service oriented design and analysis in a a series of
common formats, which utilise a common vocabulary, and collect and share them through an
international knowledge base.
The work proceeded through a series of iterations informed closely by community feedback. By the
Summer of 2009 the e-Framework technical activity had resulted in;
The availability of an overarching Technical Model to provide coherence and demonstrate how e-
Framework artefacts combine to describe and define services
The availability of around fifty documentary artefacts in the International Knowledge Base, with a
further fifty currently in the process of being reviewed by a Technical Review Group drawn from
A simplification of the initial documentary artefacts to make them more approachable
A document illustrating how the e-Framework Technical Approach relates to other approaches,
including several different approaches to Enterprise Architecture
Further information is available from http://www.e-framework.org/default.aspx?tabid=1008
Other areas of international collaboration
‘Community Source’ (collaborative software development)
Over the last decade a number of Higher Education Institutions, largely, but not exclusively based in
North America have become involved in collaborative software development. Typically, these
developments have been accompanied by the formation of a consortium, and the use of an Apache-like
open source software license. The consortia tend to operate around an organisational spectrum which
ranges from a rather “loose”, bottom-up form best represented, perhaps, by the JASIG
(http://www.jasig.org/), to the relatively “tight”, top-down consortium represented by the Kuali Foundation
(http://www.kuali.org/). Most participants do not regard organisational form as a principle, but determined
by the context and purpose of the consortium. All the major consortia concerned have obtained not-for-
profit status under US law (501.3c status). The use of an Apache-like (BSD style) software license is a
deliberate choice, made to encourage the participation of commercial entities. This has met with some
success; commercial participants range from small service-offering companies to major corporates such
as Oracle and IBM.
There is a lot of potential value to be gained by UK universities and colleges by connecting up with some
of the collaborative work in North America. The e-Framework is providing a bridge between this work and
the UK (and other partners).
The e-Framework Partnership workplan agreed in November 2008 established engagement with
Community Source Foundations, and the Andrew Mellon Foundation Research in Information Technology
(RIT) strand, as a strategic priority for the further validation of the existing e-Framework Technical work.
Whilst validation of that work in the contexts afforded by the development of Community Source software
indicated above would not necessarily be easy to achieve, it would be of considerable value.
Some of the most relevant projects are:
Kuali Student (an open source student records system);
The Open Library Environment investigation project (investigating the potential of a new type of
Library Management System)
To date this work has focused on:
Dialogue with Kuali Student, facilitating the comparison of emerging KS documentary design
artefacts with the e-Framework service oriented approach.
Working with the Open Library Environment investigation project (the practical engagement has
largely been conducted by the National Library of Australia to date) to produce a service-oriented
design of a next generation Integrated Library System (ILS).
Comparing the service definitions of both Kuali Student and OLE, from the perspective of both
software development and integration, including an assessment of overlapping functionality,
divergent terminology and likely future impact.
Over the course of the last decade and a half, the Academic Library Community has faced a series of
challenges posed, essentially, by the growth of web-based information provision. These challenges range
from significant changes in the expectations of Library users, to defining the strategic relationship of the
Academic Library to generic search technology and its providers. There is considerable evidence to
support the view that, in the perception of the Library Community, ILS vendors have been slow to meet
requirements to provide new services (such as those around Electronic Resource Management, or ERM),
or to integrate existing services provided by the Library with a range of new environments to support
teaching, learning and research. Similar perceptions exist with regard to the integration of ILS services
with administrative systems.
e-Framework activity in this area seeks to;
Inform the future direction of the HEFCE/SCONUL Shared Services Project, which seeks to
investigate the feasibility of shared services based around service-oriented approaches to the
design of Library Services, and includes an assessment of the viability of providing such services
based around open-source software.
Engage any OLE “Build” Project in dialogue with the perspective of providing assistance for
detailed design work. This will be undertaken from both an internal perspective of a next
generation ILS, and from the perspective of alignment with similar development efforts in other
work areas, such as Kuali Student.
Align work in this area with other activity under the Flexible Service Delivery Progamme, or other
JISC activity. The Cambridge Kuali Curriculum Design Project, assessing the early Kuali Student
Curriculum Design Module against UK requirements, and the Cambridge PeopleSoft
implementation, is also likely to be particularly relevant to this work.
Feedback from the Committee on these areas of work would be particularly valuable at this stage.