Efficiency, effectiveness and value for money – a new agenda for higher education

In his keynote, Professor Sir Ian Diamond told delegates that it is not just about being efficient but about "getting the message out" about the sector's achievements in efficiency.
Universities must continue to make efficiency, effectiveness and value for money core operational priorities if we are to make a robust case for future investment, says Professor Sir Ian Diamond

UK higher education is a national success story. We enjoy a global reputation for excellence in teaching and research, and our universities continue to be in the vanguard for advancing individuals and wider society, helping to solve the many problems facing people across the globe today. In addition we are seen globally as an efficient sector; one which uses every pound wisely.

However, the challenge of ensuring that we maintain this standing should not be underestimated. Many nations are investing in higher education, seeing that the higher level skills of graduates and the social and economic benefits of research are central to an advanced 21st century society.

Internationally, higher education is becoming ever more competitive and UK higher education must work tirelessly to maintain our international standing and to become both financially and environmentally sustainable.

In this context, delivering efficiency and value for money is an absolute operational priority. All stakeholders rightly expect efficient use of resources and in the current financially austere times investment to maintain excellence in both education and research will often come through such efficiencies. Thus, to meet the demands of competitiveness in the 21st century, universities must work in ever smarter and more innovative ways.

The report that we launch today – Efficiency, effectiveness and value for money – builds on the work of the 2011 UUK Efficiency Task Group and, four years on, develops a new agenda for higher education. It highlights the fantastic work that the dedicated professionals in all parts of the higher education workforce have delivered and describes the great efforts that have been made in recent years to scale the twin peaks of efficiency and effectiveness.

Professor Sir Ian Diamond launching the report at Universities UK

There are great examples of good practice and innovation which demonstrate our commitment to delivering on efficiency, effectiveness and value for money. We must continue to do more across all areas of higher education delivery, including striving to lever evermore value to the collective benefit in areas such as asset sharing, procurement, and to unlock greater value from open data.

By doing so, we can achieve not only greater value for money from our investments, but continue to improve the quality of higher education we deliver.

My report sets the future direction of travel for the sector and underpins our shared mission: that every pound invested in higher education is a sound investment. It aims to provide a focal point for all our efforts in the coming years, as we strive to ensure that UK higher education continues to be recognised the world over as the home for both excellence and efficiency.

Professor Sir Ian Diamond is principal and vice chancellor of the University of Aberdeen and Chair of the Universities UK Efficiency Task Group.