Accountability costs “cut by £50 million”

Times Higher Education: Accountability costs cut by £50 million.

A Hefce-commissioned report from PA Consulting claims universities’ administrative burden has been reduced by £50m. As reported in THE:

Between 2004 and 2008, it says in the report, the costs of accountability fell by just over a fifth, broadly in line with Hefce’s targets. This fall follows a 25 per cent reduction in the administrative burden between 2000 and 2004, and Hefce wants costs to be cut by a further 10 per cent by 2010-11. According to the study’s authors, PA Consulting Group, the total costs of compliance fell from about £240 million in 2004 to £190 million last year.

Seems pretty straightforward – unequivocally good news?

However, despite these headline figures, Mike Boxhall, one of the authors of the report, said that the picture behind the numbers remained “quite mixed”. While the study measured costs linked with specific accountability demands from bodies such as Hefce and the Quality Assurance Agency, it did not consider the impact of more general public regulations such as the costs of complying with health and safety laws or the Freedom of Information Act, he said. Steve Egan, deputy chief executive of Hefce, said the sector was moving from a position in which accountability was seen as a burden to one in which it was a “positive force”.

It really isn’t as clear cut therefore. Day to day experience in universities simply doesn’t feel as if there is lighter regulation. And the idea that all of this regulation is somehow a really good thing and not a burden is just bizarre.

The HEFCE press release is obviously very upbeat and the report itself is worth a look.

The question remains though: what is the problem to which this regulatory regime is the solution?

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