Efficiency in higher education: second annual conference – highlights and presentations

A big thank you to our excellent roster of speakers and the participation of all delegates who helped to make this a very productive event.

Conference highlights

Over the past twelve months we’ve continued to see universities working hard to ensure that they deliver value for money as well as excellence. We heard during one of the plenary sessions that there have been accusations that the sector is ‘awash with cash’, but this is not the case.

As Professor Ian Diamond pointed out, prudent financial management and a commitment to delivering greater efficiency has put the sector in a strong position to invest in the future. Despite huge cuts to capital spending, universities continue to invest in the facilities and infrastructure needed for success. And they’re doing it with their own means and resources.

If we are to continue to offer the world class facilities that our students will demand, then we must prioritise efficiency and value for money right across our institutions.

Professor Diamond focused attention on these action points:

  • Communication and dissemination – There needs to be a more coherent approach to communication around the efficiency agenda. Debates around cost and efficiency must be viewed through the lens of effectiveness.
  • Raising the profile of procurement – Best practice in procurement needs to be embedded throughout the sector. Institutional leaders need a more sophisticated understanding of how procurement professionals can help deliver strategic objectives.
  • Evidence, case studies and using best practice – We need to develop a better evidence base to underpin the dialogue on spending decisions. The Efficiency Exchange will have a vital role to play here in facilitating the sharing of best practice across the sector.
  • VAT cost sharing exemption – Given the considerable political capital invested in delivering this change, it is important that the sector fully considers the opportunities it presents.
  • Future challenges and opportunities – More work is needed around teaching and learning, better use of estates, and human resources challenges.

Graeme Reid, Head of Research and Funding, BIS: On the need for an efficiency success story, simply told. “ My ideal would be a slide with 1 figure on savings, 2 lines of narrative and 3 case studies.”

Sarah Gillinson, Managing Partner, Innovation Unit: On “What would radical efficiency look like in education? Ideas for focus: global partnerships, values and entrepreneurship”

Steve Butcher, Head of Procurement and Shared Services, HEFCE: On “How to make use of the VAT cost sharing exemption, cost sharing group models and the forthcoming guidance for the sector.”

Martyn Harrow, CEO, Jisc: “Are we really doing enough with digital?”

What does efficiency mean to you?

A quick reminder that you are invited to tell us where you think the barriers, challenges and opportunities in efficiency are, by completing our survey. Your views will play a vital role in helping to shape the Efficiency Exchange service so that it meets your needs.

Other news

We’re pleased to say that the arrival of the Efficiency Exchange is being spread widely around the sector. We are featured on the HEFCE website, and our partner professional associations AMOSSHE, AHUA, AUDE, EAUC, BUFDG, UCISA and UHR are also spreading the word via their networks.

Ian Powling is Project Manager of the Efficiency Exchange – ian.powling@universitiesuk.ac.uk