Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Policy Proposal #3: Commitment to greater use of academic consultants

This post is part of a series of policy proposals submitted to the Labour Party by me for inclusion in the 2015 manifesto.

Government should make greater use of university academics as specialist consultants

Central government spent over £500m on consultants and staff on short-term contracts across 17 departments in 2012/13. This figure was reported to be about £800m if staff "off payroll" were included. This is not surprising. Modern governments require specialists to assist the effective management of complex programmes. Specialist consultants have a valuable role to play for government. The challenge is how to more effectively support the use of consultants benefiting improved efficiencies and reducing burdens on taxpayers.

University academics are a largely underutilised resource for Whitehall. Recent years have seen the launch of a new so-called "impact agenda" rolled out by higher education bodies, such as HEFCE and RCUK, where research "impact" is assessed and a factor in determining higher education funding. The role of this assessment of research impact has been contested and some argue it presents higher education funding with problems difficult to avoid.

These activities operate against a backdrop of supportive rhetoric by successive governments for university academics to demonstrate their research impact as one important part of what public funding for higher education should demand. SEE MORE

UPDATE: The Times Higher Education magazine has run an interview with me about this proposal here.

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