Friday, 20 April 2012

Results of Cuts in Funding Survey

Last January a survey was circulated to almost a thousand members of staff at various UK Further and Higher education institutions (FHE’s). 113 FHE managers participated in the survey with 74 of those managers (65.5% of total participants) completing the survey.  Participants in the survey represented a variety of backgrounds and their responses spoke volumes about the effects cuts in funding have on sustainable projects at FHE institutions.
Below is a summary of those responses.
Job Titles
The majority of survey participants (36.7% or 33 managers) were Sustainable/Environmental Managers, with ICT and Energy managers coming second and third, accounting for 18.9% (17 managers) and 16.7% (15 managers) of the participants, respectively.  Procurement managers and Building and Estates managers also participated in the survey as did waste managers and those working in “other” departments. Unfortunately neither Carbon Managers nor Utilities Managers were independently represented although their roles may have been represented within one of the various job titles. 
Length of Time in Current Role
46 of the survey participants (51.1%) had at least 1-5 years experience in their roles with the remainder having at least 6 or more years’ experience, so responses can be considered particularly valuable.
Funding Cuts Since 2010
More importantly however, the survey confirmed the effects the 2010 cuts in funding had on the sector. Results of the survey indicated that 72 institutions (80.0% of survey participants) had their funding cut since 2010 with just 5 institutions (5.6% of survey participants) stating that their institution had not. The remaining 13 institutions (14.4% of survey participants) stated they were unsure whether their funding had been cut or not, indicating no impact on their job roles thus far.
Of the institutions that stated having their funding cut, almost 30% (29.2% or 21 institutions) stated they knew by how much, (with some giving the amounts in either pound value or percentage of total budget) with the remaining 70.8% (51 institutions) stating they did not. Reported cuts in funding varied in amounts from up to £4 million to as much as 100% of budget and included a reduction in staff numbers by 34 for one particular institution.
Even participants that replied “don’t know” to having their funding cut, 40%  (or 6 institutions) admitted that their roles have in fact been affected, albeit relatively minor. Those effects overlap with institutions whose funding was cut and include not being able to hire staff as needed and a limit put on pay increases. One participant that replied to receiving the same amount of funding as previous years also stated that there was now “considerable emphasis on innovation needed to achieve a move to low carbon, low emissions campus” indicating more pressure to reduce carbon footprint.
In order to determine the extent to which departments/teams were affected, participants were given a list of possible responses: Those responses are listed below;
             Number of staff reduced in department/ team (39 survey participants)
             Number of job related resources reduced (membership of support organisations, other     
               university resources etc. (13 survey participants)
             No funding to purchase sustainable equipment (11 survey participants) or participate in  
               sustainable projects (5 survey participants).
             Freeze/reduction in funding available to attend conferences, workshops, events etc.        
survey participants).
             Freeze/reduction in funding available to attend continuous professional  
               development (
CPD) course, evening classes etc. (12 survey participants)
             Unable to complete in full an already established sustainable project (7 survey
             Loss in financial savings made as cost saving exercises have been scrapped (4 survey
             More than half (31 survey participants) also stated that they had experienced an increase
               in workload coupled with more than a third (22 survey participants) experiencing an
               increase in overall work related stress.
             None of the survey participants reported a decrease in workload despite a total of 8
               survey participants reporting having to either take a pay cut, having their hours reduced
               or having their benefits cuts.
             Even 14 survey participants who answered “No/Don’t know to having their
               team/department being directly affected, admitted to still experiencing some effects.
However, the 2010 announcement of a £600 million cut in funding to Education & Research has been seen as an opportunity for some institutions to examine their sustainable performances and work on areas where there is scope for improvement. At least 71% of institutions have implemented some sort of sustainable initiative since the cuts were announced. Those initiatives included switching off equipment and lights when not in use, investing in energy saving equipment, engaging in behavioural change, appointment of a green champion/ to monitor and reduce energy usage and waste created, etc.
So while the overall impact of the 2010 cuts in funding may be negative some institutions regarded those measures of austerity as opportunities to demonstrate how wasteful their behaviour was and how best to improve such practices. For others, it has strengthened their push for the use of more sustainable equipment across campus. 
UK FHE institutions have also indicated a more conscientious and innovative approach to their environmental decision making since the cuts were announced.
Continuing in this field of research, a follow up survey is being planned which will examine more closely on a case by case basis the true impact cuts in funding have had on universities and colleges’ ability to perform more sustainably.
It is anticipated that this research will
             quantify actual savings made in those institutions,
             compare those savings (carbon and financial) with initial capital investment required and
             compare each dataset with extrapolated results had no initiatives been implemented.
If you’d like more information about this research or would like a closer look at the results of the survey, please contact Nicola Hogan at

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