A consortium of 24 universities will be purchasing up to Pounds 1 million worth of the software normally used by business executives to monitor company performance and make better-informed decisions.
The graphical Holos software, from Holistic Systems, would allow a vice chancellor to "drill down" into a university's Pounds 150 million turnover, focussing on its Pounds 30 million research income, breaking this down by departments and finally by individual researchers.
The researchers' salaries could then be displayed, to reveal whether their pay matched their ability to attract research contracts. The software was selected by the Delphic group of universities, the largest of of four groups participating in the Management and Administrative Computing initiative.
MAC was set up in 1988, but became sidetracked into the difficult task of selecting operational software at a time when university management was going through unprecedented changes.
"With our selection of Holos we are returning to the concept of easily accessible management information as originally envisaged by the MAC initiative," said Michael O'Hara. secretary of City University and chairman of Delphic's management information systems group.
David Goddard, head of management information services at the University of Liverpool and Delphic project manager, said that when MAC began, the feeling was that if operational systems were built, "management information will fall out". The reverse proved to be the case.
Now Mr Goddard believes that management information is the priority and that "we do not need bang up to date operational systems."
The Holos software will work with the Oracle database system selected several years ago by Delphic.
*A low-cost executive information system for higher education managers has been developed by Andrew Milbourn at Anglia Polytechnic University in Cambridge. The system uses charts which let managers see the trade-offs in decision making. It requires only a PC and a copy of Microsoft's Excel spreadsheet program.