back to article University of Nottingham looks for new HR and finance software just 18 months after massive Unit4 system upgrade

The University of Nottingham is on the lookout for a new HR and finance system in a deal which could be worth £35m, barely a year after updating its current provider's system. In a project dubbed “Digital Core”, the university said it is seeking a “step change in the way it manages its human and financial resources, with knock …

  1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Unit4 - a "better way to work"

    It seems that Business World isn't too good for business.

    I checked out their website. I can't say that I find the guy laughing in the banner to be an indication of professionalism. It feels more like they're partying all the time.

    In any case, there is no shortage of tales of botched ERP implementations, and no shortage of ERPs to choose from. I gather that an ERP is a strategic-level decision, with great, long-term implications for the company. So how is it that all these implementations are failing ?

    And how can a university need such a level of complexity to manage room schedules and order whiteboard pens ? Moreover, how does a university have the funds to change an ERP a year and a half after having upgraded their existing ERP ? I was under the impression that universities are generally strapped for cash. This one is throwing money into a bonfire.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Unit4 - a "better way to work"

      > manage room schedules and order whiteboard pens ?

      With that kind of insight you should be writing for the Sunday Express, not wasting your time on Reg comments. Many Universities have budgets akin to an SME and considerably more complexity.

      FWIW I have to use Agresso/Unit4, I think it's awful, and I can see why a capable management would want to change it for something better. The real question is why they didn't get round to it sooner.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Unit4 - a "better way to work"

        With a turnover of £700mil there's not much S and M and more E.

  2. boblongii

    We use Business World here

    And it is atrocious. Really not fit for any purpose. Total garbage. Basic functionality is missing. The UI was clearly designed by a 4-year-old.

    BW is easily the worst application I've ever used in 40 years.

    Sticking with it is a complete waste of money, so the lesser of two evils is certainly to junk it and get something else.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Have to agree 200% I have never had the misfortune to work with a worse piece of software. The UI/UX is just appalling. Makes many a SAP deployment look good.

  3. Blackjack Silver badge

    Business World makes Oracle look good

    Yeah is that kind of awful.

    A shame PC mags don't exist anymore or it would have got roasted over an open fire.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Unit 4 was OK, back in the day (10 years ago), for student management components. When they bought Agresso. Agress was primarially a finance system. It was borked, and was not a fit for their core product.

    At that time, the Unit 4 student end system was running on Uniface. What a time when it changed to browsers - effing awful.

    The data structures for students, curricula and timetabling in Unit 4 had worked (sorta)- the new interface was just plastered over - and it didnt work well. It doubled or more the number of keystrokes required to enrol a student... It took years before self service worked in any form.

    I guess it broke both systems when they tried to integrate it. The finance desktop was something I never got to grips with - and as it was 'managed' - I never got to see the design.

    One of the reasons I left higher education IT.

  5. CuChulainn Silver badge

    ...which attempts to educate around 45,500 students

    If the number of buildings being converted to student accommodation in Nottingham is anything to go by, Nottingham University is looking to double that number.

    Broadmarsh knocked down, developer goes TITSUP... let's have student accommodation.

    The huge and old Woolworths building empty... ... let's have student accommodation.

    Debenhams finally closed... it 'probably won't be retail in future', so ... let's have student accommodation.

    Bank closes in Hockley... ... let's have student accommodation.

    It's getting beyond a joke.

    The University has a lot of space on campus, so they really ought to build there first. This alternative is - well, I won't say 'killing the high street', but it is certainly stopping it getting up again.

    The students have got to go somewhere, of course, but you wonder where they've all been until now if it is necessary to turn over the entire city centre to what are usually featureless structures right out of some dystopian novel.

    1. hoola Silver badge

      Re: ...which attempts to educate around 45,500 students

      Most universities have financial constraints at the moment, mostly due to COVID but also related to dermographics, oversupply of student places and competition. Even so £35 million is still a big number in these uncertain times. The current solution must be really bad to want to commit to that sort of investment just now.

      The current downturn in university finances is going to continue for at least two if not three years as the loss of income feeds through. There is a huge deficit in foreign students and this is where a significant amount of the financial icing on the cake comes from . That shortfall cannot just be made up the following year so will take time based on academic years to clear from the system.

      On the point if university accommodation many of the new buildings are constructed & managed by a third party for the university. It may be the "University Campus accommodation" but in reality the university just collects the rent and passed it to the third party. Some have also passed all their existing halls of residence to third parties as a way of raising capital.

      Then you have the companies like Cube that build speculative student accommodation in university towns in the hope of attracting students who would normally go into rented houses.

  6. NeilPost Silver badge


    I guess it includes some contract lifetime support etc (next 5 years etc).... but I’m baffled that Uni of. Nottingham actually has £35m to spaff on a HR and Finance system. That’s build and fit out costs for a new Uni Dept building.

    Will Sage Cloud not do ??

    1. katrinab Silver badge

      Re: £35m

      Sage "Cloud", is basically the old CP/M Sage originally written for the Amstrad PCW, with a Windows front-end, and a dropbox-like thing for sharing the files between different computers.

      No, it will not scale to something the size of a university.

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