Universities Rise To The Efficiency Challenge

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Universities are saving billions by sharing high-value resources and using innovative technologies, Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts revealed today.

Major efficiency drives by the UK’s higher education institutions have contributed to savings of £1.38 billion between 2005 and 2011, with millions of pounds reinvested in the sector.

The ‘Making the Best Better’ report, commissioned by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and produced by Sarah Jackson while seconded from the N8 Partnership of research-intensive universities, highlights a range of efficiency programmes, including:

  • At The University of Manchester a £460,000 lecture recording scheme now allows students to listen to tutors through podcasts, with a large increase in student satisfaction and attainment.
  • The University of Leeds saved almost £1m a year on energy costs by joining forces with Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust to build their own combined heat and power plant.
  • The University of Oxford careers service is serving more students, advertising increased numbers of job vacancies and internship opportunities all from the same baseline budget.
  • And a £3.25 million world-leading High Performance Computing facility shared across the N8 universities is giving scientists access to a larger and higher specification machine that would not be affordable for one institution.

Minister of State for Universities and Science David Willetts said: “This interesting report shows the UK’s universities at their best; innovating and pushing boundaries.

“By working together with other institutions and businesses, universities not only benefit from cost efficiencies, but greatly improve student experiences, from offering lectures as podcasts, to giving them the chance to work with high-performance equipment.”

The report also makes the case that institutional autonomy allows for efficiency savings to be reinvested in the creation of knowledge and to improve to the student experience and shows that the ring-fencing of the science budget within BIS as one of the incentives for universities to make efficiencies in other areas, for example in procurement.

Sarah Jackson, Director of the N8 and author of the report for the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) said: “UK universities are tremendous drivers of the economy and our success is crucial to the nation as a whole – the sector is spending £8bn capital on research and teaching facilities over the next 3 years, and helping to get the economy moving.

“But we know we need to use our resources in better ways to deliver maximum efficiency. One key innovation detailed in the report is the emergence of asset-sharing arrangements within groups of universities, such as the N8 and M5. These schemes allow institutions access to research equipment across the groups, maximising their usage and also opening up university facilities to industry”

The ‘Making the Best Better’ report will help inform the next Spending Review in 2013 and help share best practice across the sector.

To view the report click here.

Read the full press release.

Read David Willetts’ speech to the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI)