Cost of knowledge

September 10, 2004

What goes around comes around. Almost 30 years ago, while seconded to the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals, I devised an approach that resembles what became known as activity-based costing (ABC).

This is built on the idea that projects consume activities and activities consume resources, hence calculating the full economic cost of a project requires the identification of activities (hence resources) consumed.

The problem then, as now, or so it would appear from your coverage ("Fears over new costing regime", August ), is the misguided view that academic freedom is synonymous with the free availability of resources - including staff time. Is it beneficial to have an informed estimate of how much resource is likely to be consumed if a specific project is to be undertaken, to facilitate an informed decision, or is it better not to know?

Since universities exist to know things, why should a knowledge of "full costs" be deemed an exception?

Richard Wilson
Loughborough University

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