A Universities UK report, “Efficiency, effectiveness and value for money” published today calls for the higher education sector to continue to improve efficiency and value for money.
“UK higher education is seen globally as an efficient sector, one which uses every pound wisely. However, the challenge of ensuring we maintain this standing should not be underestimated.” said Professor Sir Ian Diamond, Chair of the Universities UK Efficiency Task Group and Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Aberdeen.
The report, points to the impact of higher education in the UK stating that the sector generates £73 billion a year with an annual expenditure of £27.9 billion. It also supports more than 700,000 jobs and is responsible for over £10 billion in export earnings. “In the last three years for which data are available, efficiencies totalling more than £1 billion are estimated to have been delivered by universities in England” says the report.
There are four key points of impact and key roles that universities fulfil given in the report; providing world-class education, excellence and diversity in research and innovation, supporting the needs of business and industry and underpinning a global reputation for high quality education.
Thanks for substantial public investment in the higher education estate, the overall quality, condition and suitability of university infrastructure have improved, according to the report. “Over the last 10 years, efficiency gains from better use of university space are estimated to total £886 million”.
There is mention of investment in teaching and learning and the increasing pressures to improve the educational experience of students since the increased tuition fees. The increased fees in England, the report says, “have led to new demands from students, with universities needing to ensure that their learning offer is competitive and that there are top class support services and infrastructure”.
According to the report, “the research community is on track to meet the overarching target of £428 million in total savings”. In research funding, universities have delivered, so far, £194 million of savings on Research Council awards, against a cumulative target of £187 million. In 2014-15, a further £133 million of efficiency savings are scheduled to be delivered.
Estate management teams are praised for improving efficiency and reducing the sector’s carbon footprint by 1.2 billion kg.
Finally the report states that there will be intense pressure for universities to continue to commit to delivering efficiency and value for money and sets out several high-level commitments for universities which fall under the following categories.
• Excellence, reward and the higher education workforce
• Delivering value from the higher education estate
• A world class and sustainable research base
• Harnessing the benefits of asset sharing
• Creating value from higher education data
• Shared services, infrastructure and the role of procurement
• Evidencing efficiency and sharing good practice
Professor Sir Ian Diamond, Chair of the Universities UK Efficiency Task Group and Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Aberdeen, said: “Dedicated professionals in higher education have delivered fantastic work in recent years to improve efficiency and effectiveness. However, we need to continue to make a clear case, that every pound invested in higher education is a sound investment, both now and in the future.
“All stakeholders rightly expect efficient use of resources, and in the current financially austere times, universities must show that they are working in ever smarter and more innovative ways.”
Minister for Universities, Science and Cities, Greg Clark, said: “Our universities are among our most vital assets and have a worldwide reputation for excellence. Investing in them is an investment in the future strength and prosperity of the country.
“However, at a time of public spending constraints, Professor Diamond rightly recognises how important it is for our universities to demonstrate an ongoing commitment to be as efficient and effective as possible. Our universities have a good track record, with the sector on course to help deliver £428m efficiency savings from the science and research budget over 2010-15. This timely report will be an important contribution to future spending discussions.”