Money, Money …. Money Makes the World go Around?

Now even I know that this is a line from a song – we have established previously my lack of musical education I think?  According to Google it is a song in the musical Cabaret and perhaps made famous by Liza Minnelli?  Who knows, but the line chimes (forgive the pun) with a point raised by a colleague in a recent promotion forum I was chairing; why does everything revolve around money? 

I have been reflecting on this, as I do about most things, and think it deserves a fuller answer.  The context was that in any senior promotion discussion the amount of money one brings in becomes relevant whether it’s through educational innovation or research and why should this be true?  Why should it be up there with for example producing written output or delivering top quality education?  We have Performance Indicators within BU2018 that focus on money.  For example, we aspire that by 2018: every academic should generate at least £18k of Research and Knowledge Exchange (RKE) income; every Professor should be associated with at least one and half post-docs; and that every academic should supervise at least one PGR student.  As a community we dedicated ourselves as part of BU2018 to maintaining a similar sized student body and to increasing the proportion of postgraduate students to around 40%, something that will require a lot of portfolio innovation.  Let us be honest, all these PI’s revolve around generating income and we all need to play a role in bringing the cash in, so in this context cash does matter and yes it does make our University World spin.

However there is a huge but here; it is not about the income itself but about what it allows you to do that matters.  Some of you will have heard me use the line about ‘being a time lord’ before but, however corny it might be, it is the real justification for why academics need to work together to generate RKE income.  As academics we are limited by time, it is the elephant in the room whenever we talk about work load planning, it stalks us daily in our working lives.  But the way to cheat the clock is to build a team; a team of research students, of post-doc’s or visiting academics.  If you build a team then you cease to be limited by the clock but by inspiration and imagination!  That is why RKE income matters, because it allows you to build that team, to live beyond the clock!  That is why we have income targets around RKE not for the sake of the cash itself.

It is the same with education.  Innovation around new courses, units and delivery models ultimately brings in more students especially in the deregulated parts of the market (e.g. ABB+, international, postgraduate and CPD).  That income allows us to recruit more academics, to invest in better estate and, therefore, a better experience for our staff and students.  So yes income does matter, but not for the sake of cash itself, but what that cash allows us to do. 

By way of example, a few years back I ran a small consultancy operation out of BU in the field of contaminated land.  Not an area that particularly interests me but one in which I could generate income for BU, part of which was invested back into my research.  In fact that income helped finance my work in East Africa, leading to my footprint paper in Science, and ultimately to my current NERC grant which finishes this September.  The income I generated helped me to get promotion and more importantly fulfil one of my most cherished research ambitions.  So yes income does make our University World spin and we all have a role to play.  The Grants Academy is there to help you get started and the staff of the Research Development Unit are there to help, so why not help to make our World spin this coming year?