Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Efficiency in Higher Education

Today I'm at Universities UK for the 4th Annual Efficiency in Higher Education Conference.

First speaker is Professor Ian Diamond, who is chair of the UUK Efficiency and Modernisation Task Group. Back in 2011 I was on this group which produced an Initial report, and now a second report, phase two, has been published.

Started with some information about the economic impact of higher education in the UK, which I might have shared before, but no harm in doing it again.

It is important to remind ourselves how much of an impact HE has on the economy - locally, regionally and nationally.

In the last five years:
Cuts to capital funding, but continued investment needed
Erosion of the value of the tuition fee in England and Wales, efficiency and cost saving mandated in other parts of the UK
Science and research budget reduced in real terms
HE focus on efficiency, first report published in 2011. Been looking at efficiency for some time, but not necessarily getting the message out.
Universities have collectively reported surpluses, which could be interpreted as making a profit. But, in turnover terms they are not huge, and they are being used to fund investment, which is needed.

There is a funding challenge. There are pressures on public funding, and the next government will have tough choices to make. The UK needs a world class HE system, which is an integral part of economic recovery.
HE therefore needs to make a robust case for investment.
To do that, we need to demonstrate that we are efficient, and that we are taking improvements in efficiency seriously.

The latest report identifies 6 key work streams which will help us to do this:
Excellence, reward and the higher education workforce. This is our biggest asset.
Delivering value from the HE estate. We have a huge estate. 26m square metres, 7 times bigger than Tesco.
A world class and sustainable research base.
Harnessing the benefits of asset sharing
Unlocking value from higher education data
Evidence, oversight and sharing good practice. We need to be better about measuring what we do, spreading information and sharing through things like the efficiency exchange.

The report is well worth reading, it's available here.

This was followed from a talk from an economist, who looked at how we measure efficiency.
He demonstrated that universities operate at a higher level of efficiency than other sectors, including banking etc. Older Universites are less efficient, because we're looking after heritage assists. Also, specialist institutions eg for the Arts are also less efficient because of for example the amount of space needed for students.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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