A typical Australian university in 2011 spent almost a million dollars in meeting not even half of the reporting obligations of just one government department according to a report on university red tape released today.
According to the PhillipsKPA report, Review of Reporting Requirements for Universities, commissioned by the (then) Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education (DIISRTE), universities together allocated around 66,000 staff days and $26 million in 2011 to meeting just 18 of 46 reporting requirements.
These figures only incorporate direct staff costs and do not include capital or indirect costs, which are typically over 40 per cent of total costs for universities. Nor do they include the time and expense of reporting on grant-based programs run by the Department or the requirements of other government agencies, states and territories.
The report found that, in some cases, for every $1,000 in funding, $30 was lost in complying with the cost of reporting data to government.
The report's recommendations include:
- developing a new model for reporting requirements including a national higher education data collection and information repository to consolidate data reporting requirements to operate within DIISRTE;
- DIISRTE listing all its reporting requirements and those of related agencies that seek regular information from universities;
- DIISRTE, Universities Australia and individual universities developing ways to enhance government understanding of higher education through training, workshops and staff exchanges;
- DIISRTE developing standardised templates for reporting requirements.
"PhillipsKPA has done an excellent job within the constraints imposed by the terms of reference. While we strongly support all recommendations, and welcome the reference to collaborating with Universities Australia, they do not go far enough," said Belinda Robinson, Chief Executive of universities peak body, Universities Australia.
"In addition to work commencing immediately on the implementation of these recommendations, the Productivity Commission should be commissioned, as a matter of urgency, to undertake a full review of university regulation and reporting that covers all government agencies and jurisdictions.
"The public must have confidence that universities are accountable, including for the public funds they receive, and an effective regulatory and reporting regime is a necessary component of securing and maintaining public trust.
"But what this report shows, and bearing in mind that it only addresses a part of one portfolio, is that the university sector is groaning under the weight of an ever increasing regulatory and reporting load."
The report shows that DIISRTE reporting requirements represent just the tip of the regulatory iceberg.
"There are a plethora of agencies with tentacles that reach into the day-to-day operations of universities including the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency, the Australian Skills Quality Authority, Excellence in Research for Australia, the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, the Department of Defence, and state and territory governments and other government agencies," Ms Robinson said.
"The dead weight of unnecessary, redundant and duplicative, regulation and reporting not only leads to waste in the allocation of university and government resources, it also diverts substantial funds away from the core business of universities - teaching, scholarship and research."