How Firstline IT is about more than just IT support for the College for International Education

“What I like best about Firstline IT is that I feel I know the people really well,” says Luke Murgatroyd, Co-Director of the College for International Education (CIE) in Oxford.

“They fit in with the family atmosphere of the college and, as a fairly small organisation, that’s so important to us. I can say hello to George when he picks up the phone and chat to Dan when he comes to set up the computers for our Summer School. It’s a good relationship.”

CIE, which celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2014, offers a range of English Language and short academic courses to adults and young people from across the world. More than 1,000 students take its classes every year, staying in Oxford for an average of three weeks.

Firstline IT started working with CIE in 2009, managing a network that supports all the college’s admin and marketing, as well as education and teaching programmes. The network is also accessed by students via their laptops.

“Absolutely everything we do is online, from our marketing to the new guided e-learning system we introduced this year,” says John Hudson, the other Co-Director. “Even the smallest glitch could be a major problem for us. It’s why having reliable IT support is so important.”

Student numbers peak during July, August and September, crowding out OIE’s city centre premises. So each July part of the team decamps to Lady Margaret Hall (LMH), one of the University’s colleges, to run the adult summer courses from there.

Firstlinego too, to set up and maintain a range of PCs linked to the CIE network, and to liaise with LMH’s IT team over security and access.

“This is where having a local IT support company really comes into its own,” says Luke. “If there are any problems on-site they can pop up and sort them out, and they can take the time to get to know the strengths and weaknesses of our working locations.

Next year they are installing a booster router in LMH, for example, because the wifi signal is not very strong in all parts of the building.”

CIE and Firstlinehave cooperated in other areas too. When a couple of First Line’s teammembers needed to brush up their English language skills, CIE was the natural place for them to go.

And when CIE wanted to set up internships for some Swiss students on their Business Foundation course, Firstlinewere happy to step in. They now regularly host two or three students a year to give them experience at working in English in a professional environment.

“Firstlineare good at the technical IT support we need and very responsive, which I suppose is all you ask for from an IT support company,” says John. “But I like the fact that we’ve got to know all their staff really well, we get on with them personally, and they don’t just do what we ask but go out of their way to be helpful and proactive.”