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For UNC-CH, Bain report brings some pub

UNC Chapel Hill's hiring of a corporate efficiency consultant last year was, at first, controversial on campus.

The on-campus furor over the hire, which was funded by an anonymous donor, seems to have subsided, and now the university is getting some good publicity for the move.

First, other big-name universities, like Cornell and Berkeley, followed Carolina's lead. And now, the New York Times has chimed in with a story noting, as the Times likes to do, a  trend in the making: universities turning to private consultants to look for cost savings.

Here's the story.

UNC-CH's Thorp give a virtual address

Today is University Day at UNC Chapel Hill, and Chancellor Holden Thorp has put a twist on the traditional State of the University address that campus leaders here customarily give as part of the day's celebration.

This year, Thorp gave a virtual address. You can click on the 9-minute youtube video below or click here to read the transcript.

The chancellor doesn't break any news in this year's address. Mostly, it's a summary of all that went on in the past year. It emphasizes the budget crisis that sapped $67 million from university coffers, and the Bain report, created by a consultant to help the university streamline its administrative and financial operations.

And it also trumpets some highlights from the past year, like the national championship in basketball, the success of Anoop Desai on American Idol, and the fact that the university produced two Rhodes Scholars.

Not bad.

On the budget issue: Thorp mentions that the economic crisis has led more students to request financial aid in order to get to or stay in college. The university has managed to patch aid packages together for all who needed them; the Carolina Covenant program, which offers full aid funding for students who demonstrate great financial need, has swelled and now accounts for 11 percent of the first-year class.

At 11 this morning, Gov. Beverly Perdue will give the keynote University Day address at Memorial Hall.

Bain & Company: getting popular

Bain & Company, the firm hired at UNC Chapel Hill to evaluate its finances and look for cost savings, is getting popular among universities.

We reported recently that after working in Chapel Hill, it headed to Cornell.

Now, we learn that UC Berkeley is interested as well.

I can't help but wonder whether Berkeley, a public university, will say how much they pay Bain for its expertise.

Bain & Company working at another university

When UNC Chapel Hill hired Bain & Company, a global consulting firm, to analyze the university's finances and administrative structures earlier this year, some folks were bothered in part because the firm had little experience with higher education.

Well, it appears Bain is branching out. The firm, which spent several months in Chapel Hill and produced a voluminous report on its findings, is now undertaking a similar exercise at Cornell University.

 According to this report in the Cornell Daily Sun, Bain has been hired to help administrators there find ways to become "leaner and stronger." 

UNC-CH's Thorp on the Bain Report

Writing today in the News & Observer, UNC Chapel Hill Chancellor Holden Thorp talks about the Bain report, an analysis unveiled last week by a private consultant that suggested that the university has quite a bit too much bureaucracy.

Thorp writes that the report will help UNC-CH find ways to become more efficient, and in doing so, may help improve public confidence in the way universities are managed these days.

He writes: "Legitimate concerns are being expressed about the growth in our administrative costs. We're proud that Carolina has been ahead of the curve in addressing these concerns this year, and this report shows that we are serious about changing the way we do business."

Here's Thorp's opinion column.

And click here for more on the Bain report.


Too much red tape at UNC-CH

Newsflash: UNC Chapel Hill has far too much bureaucracy.

That's one message coming from a new report by Bain & Company, a consultant hired by the university to examine the university's financial processes. Bain's 107-page report will be presented to university trustees Thursday.

It suggests an institution bogged down by duplication and with  too many levels of administrators and supervisors. One example: In at least one area of the university, a low-level worker is 10 steps from Thorp, the chancellor. In other words, that worker bee has nine bosses if you follow the chain-of-command concept.

Campus officials hope changes that stem from the analysis could reap millions in savings.

The Bain report examines administrative structures, spending processes and personnel decision-making across the university and proposes dozens of areas where money could be saved.

A few examples:

• UNC-CH has more than 100 academic centers and institutes but no standard reporting structure for them. Most have their own finance, human resources and information technology staffs; combining many of those support services and streamlining the way these centers report to supervisors could reap up to $6 million in annual savings, according to the report.

• UNC-CH conducts a massive amount of funded research, but technology in the offices supporting that work isn’t adequate. There are overlapping responsibilities in some places that create confusion and redundancy, and these support offices are scattered across campus and, in some examples, off campus. An investment in automation and some other resources within research support could save money over the long run, according to the report.

• UNC-CH should eliminate some supervisors and give more control to those who continue in those roles. Fewer management layers would lead to fewer meetings, less duplication, and could save up to $12 million annually, according to the report.

View the report here. For more on this story, read tomorrow's News & Observer.

Bain on UNC: Too much bureaucracy

Here's how thick the bureaucracy is at UNC Chapel Hill - there is at least one department where the worker bees on the front lines are literally 10 levels away from Chancellor Holden Thorp.

In essence, that person has nine bosses, if you go by the usual up-the-chain-of-command concept.

That's too many, according to Jeff Denneen, a partner with Bain & Company, the management consultant UNC has hired - to some fanfare and controversy - to take a critical look at the university's operational structure.

Denneen spoke Wednesday morning to a packed meeting of the university's Employee Forum, a staff group comprised largely of the worker bees Denneen sites as being so far separated from top administrators.

The 10-layer example was an extreme one, he conceded, and the max; most other workers aren't that far apart from the university's leaders, but the anecdote made a point.

UNC and Bain offer update

UNC Chapel Hill has issued an interim report detailing some of the work done so far by Bain & Company, the consultant hired to help the university find ways to reduce costs and manage its budget.

The hiring of Bain has been a matter of some controversy on campus because it is funded by an anonymous donor. The university has not revealed the donor's name, nor the cost of the study, leading some on campus to question the motivations behind the consultant's hiring.

The interim report is presented here as a video with an accompanying written transcript. It details Bain's work thus far interviewing hundreds of UNC employees.

A final report is due to UNC trustees in July.

On a quick read of this document, one thing jumps out - UNC has some serious red tape. Bain notes that, among other things, half of campus supervisors oversee 1 to 3 people.

Have a read. Tell us what you think.

UNC/Bain relationship examined

UNC Chapel Hill's highly scrutinized relationship with Bain & Company, a private consulting firm hired to look for ways to cut the university's budget, is the subject of an article in today's Inside Higher Ed.

The article touches on many of the concerns folks in Chapel Hill have had since UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp agreed to hire Bain with money provided by a private donor.

The donor has remained anonymous, as has the cost of the study Bain is conducting. The tight-lipped nature of this deal has many on campus bothered, particularly since Bain doesn't have a ton of experience in higher education.

In this article, Thorp defends his decision.

"I think if you ask people about the way that I've handled most things in the administrative roles that I've had, it's been pretty open," he told Inside Higher Ed. "This was not quite as open as I normally do things, but when you get in these positions sometimes you have to make difficult choices. But I'm confident it was the right choice."

Thorp addressed some concerns at a recent campus forum. 

UNC's Thorp stands by Bain hiring

UNC Chapel Hill Chancellor Holden Thorp is standing by his recent hiring of an outside consultant that will look for ways for the university to cut its budget.

The consultant is being paid for by an anonymous private donor, and the university has not said how much the firm is being paid. At a community meeting Monday, Thorp fielded several questions about the Bain contract, eventually pointing out that because of the anonymous nature of the gift funding the study, he can't say as much as people want him to about it.

He said in part: 

"It was offered to us under the terms we accepted, which I understand not everybody is wild about. I felt, and I still feel it gives us the opportunity to come up with some might provide additional insight that we might not otherwise get. And it doesn't cost the university a thing."

Thorp has made public some of the documentation laying out the work Bain will do for the university. Two of those documents are attached to this blog post.

 You can read a full accounting of today's community meeting in Wednesday's Chapel Hill News. For now, a couple tidbits:

• A $445,000 employee assistance fund for workers who may be laid off has been funded in this way: $100,000 from the athletic department; $70,000 from the cancellation of the annual Tar Heel Bus Tour; $250,000 from a private gift; and $25,000 from a private gift from Thorp and his wife.

Also - During his comments, Thorp mentioned commencement when discussing events that may be nixed in order to save money. What he meant, according to a university spokesman, was that a Polk Place reception that traditionally follows the May commencement has been cut, but not commencement itself.

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