Oxford University Pro-vice chancellor, Tony Monaco’s recent suggestion that his university will need to charge at least £8,000 to replace lost income through government cuts is not unexpected, but begs the question as to whether institutions such as these are really capable of meeting these austerity measures? (‘Oxford heads towards maximum fee’, BBC News Online, 8th February 2010). While universities may feel it necessary to charge higher fees to compensate for the cuts, is enough being done to see if spending can be improved elsewhere?
Instead of the knee jerk strategy of raising prices to maintain income, are our universities really looking at ways to improve efficiency? For example, reducing spend on administration by sharing certain services with nearby universities – an approach highlighted in a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) study, as something certain universities were looking into. Alternatively, there could be huge savings achieved by using IT to consolidate disparate systems?
Following the current shake up, the next few years are a crucial time to prove we are still able to deliver a highly competitive, world-class university system. This means demonstrating to students, parents and any other critics that UK University Plc. or the like can adapt and stand on its own two feet. Before attempting to compensate for the funding cuts through price hikes, vice-chancellors must start looking closer to home in order to remain competitive and keep costs to a minimum.