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August 2011 | Adam Leach
Department for Education’s market-based approach to higher education
will fail unless providers publish accurate data, from which companies can
benchmark costs, according to a report.
department wants smaller providers of education services, such as social
enterprises, to be able to compete alongside larger organisations. Published
today, a report by the Committee ofPublic Accounts (PAC)
said if the policy was to succeed, better and more accurate data must be made
available to allow organisations to identify value for money and make them
better able to compete.
committee consulted three education institutions that had managed to make
efficiency savings. Each highlighted the importance of knowing what competitors
were doing. The report concluded: “The department’s market-based delivery model will not
deliver its objectives of improving choice and quality for students unless good
comparative information between providers is available.”
also called on government to provide greater incentives, or strip away
disincentives, for smaller providers to collaborate. It found that one obstacle
is their cost base but that by teaming up with others to improve their buying
power they could put themselves on an equal footing with larger companies.
However, the direct competition between small providers to attract pupils is
stifling collaboration. The report also called for a change to assessment
criteria so organisations could continue to be assessed independently even if
they formed a federation.
chairwoman Margaret Hodge, said:“Students in larger institutions have
generally achieved better results. Smaller providers could achieve some of the
benefits of size, such as economies of scale and improvements to quality and
choice, through collaboration. However, the competitive market in which
providers operate can act as a barrier to cooperation.”
last year the London University Purchasing Consortium (LUPC) announced it wouldmake annual savings of £2 million on legal fees as a result of leveraging buying power.