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2 April 2014 | Will Green
The universities sector is “on track” to make savings of £400 million by 2015/16, a conference was told.
Professor Sir Ian Diamond, principal and vice chancellor of the University of Aberdeen, said between 2005/6 and 2010/11 the sector saved £1.38 billion, against a target of £1.23 billion, and there had been “enormously good work around procurement” in collaborative purchasing.
Speaking at the London Universities Purchasing Consortium 2014 Conference yesterday, Sir Ian said the sector produced a surplus of £1.1 billion in 2012, but perceptions in political circles that it was “awash with cash” were misplaced.
“The perception needed to get across to politicians is these are not surpluses to pay vice chancellors huge amounts of money,” he said. “We are investing in students and staff.
“This is not about doing more for less. If we are not able to improve the quality of UK higher education then we lose the game. We must find a way of scaling the twin peaks of effectiveness and efficiency.”
Sir Ian, who led a review into the efficiency of higher education in 2011, said there was a debate to be had about the role of collaborative procurement agencies. “Are the agencies at capacity? Could they do more? Could they provide shared services to smaller institutions?” he said.
He said it was important to have the right resources to deliver efficiencies. “You need appropriate staffing. I am not of the view that half a person and a fish can deliver this work,” he said.
“Austerity is going nowhere. We are going to continue to be in a world where higher education sector institutions are challenged to be seen to be using every single pound wisely. The funding environment will be challenging and yet we need to have an effective and wonderful university sector.”