Derek Glover and Rosalind Levacic have produced a practical work of reference that rather ambitiously endeavours to mesh the technical with the general and to make all of it accessible to non-experts. The text is interspersed with case studies from around the world, providing an international flavour. But whether it truly gives an international perspective depends on one's taste.
The authors' basic thesis is that educational resource management is not well understood and so the impacts of policy decisions and frameworks are often not properly evaluated. In essence, the book sets out to explain (and on occasions evaluate) the link between resourcing and its effect in the world of education.
The book begins with a helpful articulation of the environment in which educational organisations operate, together with the public/private dichotomies in terms of funding and benefits. A focus on the allocation of public finance is followed by more technical sections concerning cost structures and the processes that underpin budgetary preparation, allocation, control and evaluation, together with a sprint through the principles of asset management and capital expenditure.
Throughout, the book remains grounded as, essentially, a reference text to dip in and out of as the latest challenge presents itself. That said, there is a value in reading it in a single sitting, which will benefit students of educational resource management and those making a shift from teaching to educational management.
The book is published at a timely moment given the ever more forensic scrutiny of education by Government and policymakers. It sets out a clear framework and associated guidance on managing financial resources and the evident tensions that decision-making in that context leads to. In one chapter, for example, the authors begin to explore the perennial notions of effectiveness, efficiency and value for money, but skirt around the notion that value for money has improved because of the introduction of "some element of market forces" to many educational economies. The next chapter points out that limited public funding is often accompanied by limited private capacity, but the nuancing of the interplay between the various sources and the impact on value-for-money judgments is perhaps underplayed.
Further on there is a powerful message that, however aware of theory and theoretical positions one is, the "predominating management style of the organisation will affect the philosophy and practice of resource allocation". More of this kind of linkage would have enhanced the descriptive and technical passages and offered space for reflection on the interplay between subtle as well as well-defined processes.
The book does fulfil its stated purpose, although I'm not sure that the international elements are fully elucidated. Yes, there are vignettes and brief case studies, but they are tasters designed to whet but not to satisfy any hearty appetite. But, as the conclusion asserts, educational resource management requires "an understanding of the open systems environment, strategic and budgetary planning and evaluation of processes, outputs and outcomes". Such understanding "helps ensure that financial resources are used effectively, efficiently and in a way that is both equitable and provides value for money".
In that context, it is useful as a reference book and could grace the shelf of any educational manager. It recognises that there is more to say, though, and I expect that any aspiring manager will move beyond it to more integrated rather than technical material.
Educational Resource Management: An International Perspective
By Derek Glover and Rosalind Levacic
Institute of Education, University of London
Published 1 May 2007