About Simon Perks

Writer, trail runner, hill walker, astronomer, kayaker, paddleboarder, photographer, nerd, tea drinker, lover of the sea, labrador wrangler

Efficiency in a student-focused world

With universities coming under growing pressure to justify how they use their resources, efficiency is back in the spotlight. But the focus will increasingly be on how well institutions meet the needs of their students, while accommodating growing cost pressures.

Our universities operate in a challenging environment. Expectations of funders and fee-paying students are rising. Competition from traditional and alternative providers is becoming more intense. And costs continue to increase. All of which mean that institutions need to do ever more with the resources at their disposal.

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When it comes to improving efficiency, our universities have already made great strides. They have streamlined processes and eliminated waste. They have improved space utilisation and reduced energy consumption. They have shared services, pooled assets and co-located professional services staff. And they have become lean, mean procurement machines.

This is all great news, but it is no longer enough. Continue reading

Turning a hobby into a living

Making a living from their hobby is the dream of many craftspeople. In a slight change of pace, I explore here how they can turn this dream into reality. I’ve focused on woodland crafts because, as an amateur green woodworker, that’s what I know about. But the lessons are the same for pretty much anyone wanting to turn pro.

As our jobs become more stressful and less secure, an increasing number of us spend our few idle moments wondering what it would be like to jack in the day job and make a living by doing something that we truly love. Whether it is managing a woodland, making chairs or carving spoons, the thought of using our skills to create an exciting and profitable business holds many of us in its thrall. But what would it be like to turn our hobby into our livelihood? And how can we make it happen? Continue reading

Long-term planning in an age of uncertainty

Long-term planning in the current political and economic climate can seem like a bit of a mug’s game. But it’s not because things change. That, after all, is to be expected. It’s because everything’s changing. We can’t take anything for granted any more. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t bother with long-term plans, though. It just means that we need to approach them in a different way. Continue reading

Exploring efficiency in higher education

Efficiency can be a challenging concept. We accept that it’s a good thing, but we struggle to define it. We may recognise it when we see it, but the factors that drive it frequently remain elusive. And just when we think we’ve finally pinned it
down, we find that it can mean different things to different people.

Which is why I’ve been delighted to work with the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education to research and prepare ‘Getting to grips with efficiency’, a guide aimed at those with governance responsibilities within UK higher education institutions.

The guide covers a broad range of efficiency-related topics, from the history of efficiency in organisations to how it is approached in today’s universities, and from how governors can help to promote efficiency to what institutions are already doing to make more efficient use of the resources available to them. In short, if you want to learn about the efficiency agenda and its impact on the UK higher education sector, this is the guide for you.

The guide can be downloaded from the LFHE website. If you don’t have a MyLF account, you can set one up for free.

On life, work and running

Those of you who know me personally will be aware that I’m a bit of a runner. Now, I’d be the first to admit that I’m not a very good runner. And I’m certainly not a very fast runner. But I do like to lace up my trainers and get outside for a trundle through the countryside. Running is a part of my life. And it has taught me a great deal. Not just about running, but about life as well. Continue reading