Almost 8 per cent of university teaching budgets – equivalent to £1 billion a year – is spent on complying with measures to uphold academic standards, a study says.
Assessing the full economic costs associated with quality assurance, including academic staff time, consultants at KPMG estimated that it costs the UK’s 130 higher education institutions just over £1 billion to carry out the required checks on quality.
When the costs incurred by further education colleges and alternative providers are added, this rises to £1.1 billion, according to the report, The Cost to Providers in England of Existing Quality Assurance and Quality Assessment Practices, published yesterday.
The document was released alongside proposals to overhaul the way universities are inspected in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, which include the abolition of six-yearly institutional reviews for universities.
According to the costing document, about 38 per cent of the £1 billion cost relates to the time spent by academics ensuring that quality checks are completed. About £380 million is spent on overheads, such as the cost of premises, incurred while completing this work.
Another 9 per cent of the £1 billion (£90 million) is spent directly on staff involved in the quality assurance regime.
Asked how much institutions could save if external quality assurance requirements – such as Quality Assurance Agency reviews – were scrapped, institutions differed on how much would be saved, with some saying that the work would need to carried out anyway.
However, if those institutions sceptical about potential savings are excluded, KPMG estimates that universities could save about £90 million each year if external checks were abolished.
It also states that the total cost to the sector for preparing for a QAA review is £2.8 million per review – or £127,000 per institution, assuming that they are undertaken every six years.
The total cost of preparation for institutional visits by professional bodies is £5 million – at about £38,000 per institution per year on average. Running the external examining system costs only £26 million each year in total at about £18 per student, it says.
Other costs include: institutional subscriptions to the QAA (£3.8 million); subscriptions and other costs for the Office for the Independent Adjudicator (£3.7 million); and the running of governance structures within institutions (£8.2 million).