Universities spending millions on ‘inadequate’ websites

Money down the drain?

A report in the Telegraph highlights significant spending by universities on website redesigns which seems to deliver less than spectacular results:

Using Freedom of Information legislation the Telegraph discovered eight examples of universities spending between £100,000 and £280,000 on one-off website redesigns, as much as five times higher than the average spending.

The average annual spending on the maintenance of a university website is £60,375. That figure excludes additional spending on one-off redesigns, for which the average spending is £60,882.

The most expensive university website is the University of Hertfordshire’s, which spent £278,094 on a redesign by Precedent Communications and Straker UK, completed in May 2008. The university also employs staff whose salaries cost £221,500 every year, in addition to £14,500 each year for software support.

The reality is though that every university will account for its spend on its website differently with some being more centralised and others being more devolved. Whichever way you look at it though, spending £60k a year on maintaining a website seems an extremely modest investment for such a key recruitment, promotional and communications tool.

The report also quotes a survey by Times Higher Education which asked sixth form pupils to rate university websites:

The survey split university websites into three categories — well performing, average performing and badly performing — based on five principles including accessibility, contact information, the availability of good feedback from students, the uniqueness of the website and the quality of insight into the campus experience. Comparing spending information with the Times Higher Education survey suggests that some universities may be under-investing in their websites.

So, the conclusions are that some universities are under-investing and others are spending too much and no-one has really got the balance right. Helpful.

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“Drop the ‘mickey mouse’ degrees”

“Drop the ‘mickey mouse’ degrees” says head of Royal Society of Chemistry

It’s silly season again. According to a blog post from Richard Pike of the RSC:

‘Mickey Mouse’ degree courses should be swept away, and priorities in university education and research should reflect the challenges facing the country over the forthcoming decades. No longer should the government be paying 18-year-olds to start courses on celebrity journalism, drama with waste management, or international football business management.

This seems to be prompted by new constraints in HE funding and suggests that not only is utilitarianism a primary consideration but that university autonomy is also secondary to the perceived national need. Anyway, whatever the philosophical basis of the approach it’s always fun to pick on bonkers degree courses. Which probably explains why the story was swiftly picked up by the Telegraph which quotes Dr Pike:

“We need a population with an enduring set of skills, such as an understanding of the physical world around us, literacy and communication, numeracy, how to function and continue to learn in a complex society, and above all creativity, rather than an ability to satisfy some ephemeral demand that in 10 years’ time will be viewed as a curiosity.”

Further analysis of the courses he lambasts is also offered by the paper:

Celebrity Journalism is a new three-year course to be offered at Staffordshire University from this autumn. It includes topics such as interviewing celebrities and understanding celebrity culture. International Football Business Management is offered by Bucks New University and covers coaching, government policy, and issues in sport and leisure, among others.

All highly entertaining stuff therefore and really nothing new as previous posts on the launch of an MA in Beatles Studies and the offer of a degree in Northern Studies show. For the really masochistic there is also a podcast on “bonkers or niche” degrees.