last EUIMA project study visit on full-costing implementation in European universities took place at Trinity College Dublin from 23 to 25 January 2012. A particular focus of this study visit was cooperation between universities, the government and funding agencies.
Around 60 participants from 16 countries came to Trinity College to learn about the Irish approach to implementing full costing in a nationwide coordinated process among all relevant stakeholders led by the Irish Universities’ Association (IUA) and supported with funding from the Irish Higher Education Authority.
Brigid McManus, Secretary General of the Irish Department of Education & Skills, placed full costing implementation into a broader national strategic framework. She pointed to the importance of demonstrating the needs of the higher education sector to governments and public funders especially in times of austerity, when all sectors that are mainly publicly funded have to face major budget cuts and compete for scarce resources. “Academic freedom and institutional autonomy are paramount, but they need to be balanced with transparency and accountability.”
In this respect, full costing methodologies are a useful tool to identify all direct and indirect costs of universities’ activities and to make them visible to policy makers, while allowing the sector to have a more solid basis to claim costs back and argue for the need of sufficient and sustainable funding.
Dr Patrick Prendergast, Provost of Trinity College Dublin, highlighted the link between full costing and the financial sustainability from an institutional perspective: “Financial sustainability has never been more important and the current financial crisis proves that universities need to develop tools for financial sustainability to continue delivering high-class education and research.”
The ways that full-costing methodologies can be developed and implemented and how challenges and problems can be addressed in a coordinated process were presented by experts from Trinity College Dublin and five other Irish universities as well as a wide range of stakeholders. Participants received practical advice on how to set up a project plan with concrete milestones, an efficient management structure and an effective communication strategy. Continuous communication externally with all relevant stakeholders and internally from the leadership level to all concerned staff members was presented as one of the key elements of successful implementation by all speakers.
This event was the last study visit in the framework of the EUIMA-Full Costing project. In order to present the outcomes of the whole EUIMA project and to inform ongoing decision-making processes about future EU research funding, EUA will organise a one-day event on “Sharing innovative practices in university modernisation” with EU policy makers on 10 May 2012 in Brussels.