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Costings project: CNL 1: Executive Summary
The text below is taken directly from
the Executive Summary of the CNL Report. Some clarifications have been added in
The main aim of this Joint Information
Systems Committee (JISC) funded project was to identify the unrecorded or
“hidden” costs involved in Networked Learning and to produce a Planning
Document and Financial Schema using which a complete picture of the actual
costs of Networked Learning can be reached.
This Final Report comprises 12 chapters
plus a small number of Appendices. It details the activities of the Study Team
during the six-month study [in 1999]. These activities ranged from a Sectoral
Survey to gain an overview of the extent of Networked Learning in UK Higher
Education Institutions (HEIs), a collection of in-depth studies based on
interviews at seven Institutions, a literature review of over 100 sources and
analysis of a survey which focused on the student perceived costs of Networked
- The literature search established that
the past literature is confinable, with a slow rate of accretion. The
literature from the training field is relevant.
- Earlier UK work on costing innovative
learning systems in HE was of little use. More general costing work, such
as the KPMG Costings Guidelines (1997), has been helpful. The Flashlight
(Delinger et al., 1999) work on costing is likely to be of great
- The Sectoral Survey established that the
costs of Networked Learning are little considered at this stage, with
problems of scope and inconsistent information.
- The site visits confirmed that Networked
Learning is prevalent in all types of HEI, but that cost analysis of
Networked Learning is not currently on the agenda (although HEIs are aware
that it is firmly on the Funding Councils’ agenda).
- The site visits also proved that student
concerns and behaviour are neither well understood nor seen as being
- Both the survey and the site visits
confirmed that there are organisational barriers to accurate costing. The
“cost of costing” issue was raised.
- Institutions did identify a useful set of
Hidden Costs to complement those uncovered in the literature.
- Institutions felt that more compelling
pedagogical evidence of the benefits of Networked Learning was needed.
Organisational, quality and software issues were also considered as
- The study has uncovered costs being
absorbed by academic staff which were previously hidden. Staff overtime
was highlighted as an issue.
- The student survey showed that there is a
disjunct between student beliefs - in essence, students believe that
Networked Learning increases costs to them - and student behaviour - time
has an opportunity cost to them.
0.2 Planning Document and Financial Schema
We propose a Planning Document and
Financial Schema with the following features:
- It can operate at the level of a whole
Institution; a department or faculty; a course; or a unit (module) within
- It takes account of the costs incurred
(or saved) by the additional stakeholders in the learning process other
than the Institution. The most important of these additional stakeholders
are Students and Staff (own time and resources).
- It takes account of the division of
academic time into Research, Teaching and Other (including
- It takes account of the activities within
the course development process and proposes a three-phase model for these
if there is no existing relevant model.
- It is flexible in terms of the methods of
allocation of overheads.
Though it is possible to propose the
nucleus of a Planning Document and Financial Schema in six months, more
development and testing is needed to prove its value.
- We support the centrally initiated drive
towards coherence in university accounting procedures. [The Transparency Review.]
- Conventional teaching and learning must
be costed via the same methodology. [See the CNL 2 study.]
- There is a need to locate and evaluate
finance software suitable for the “new era” of Activity Based Costing in
HEIs. [See CNL 2.]
- A co-ordinated “mega-survey” approach is
needed, including recognised procedures by which figures are collated.
0.4 Recommendations for further work
- The study should be extended to include
the Further Education (FE) sector. The FE report should also include
issues relevant to the University for Industry. [This was never done.]
- Collaboration with Australia may be
profitable, especially in the light of the current CVCP/HEFCE research
project “The Business of Borderless Education”. [The Australians have now,
in 2006, taken up costing quite seriously.]
- Evidence suggests that the next area ripe
for treatment, in terms of costing education, is the UK schools sector.
[Becta has done some work on TCO
– Total Cost of Ownership.]
- The Study Team is happy to work with the
HE and FE Funding Councils to look at specific issues relevant to the
constituent countries of the UK. [Never done. HEFCE has commissioned more
work on costs, from JM Consulting.]
- We recommend a study into the benefits,
overt and hidden, for all stakeholders, of Networked Learning. Without
such a study, the cost issues are seen in isolation. [This was done via
the Centre for Research on the
Wider Benefits of Learning.]
The full CNL 1 report
This is a Word file over 3M in size – available