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This is PA Consulting Group's third review for HEFCE of the costs, impacts and burdens of accountability in English higher education. It follows on from the previous studies 'Better Accountability for Higher Education' (HEFCE 00/36) in 2000 and 'Better accountability revisited: review of accountability costs' in 2004.

The current study found that the incremental costs to institutions of compliance with sector-specific requirements have continued to fall, broadly in line with HEFCE's stated objectives, and are now some 21 per cent lower. However, this is at odds with a perception among many institutions that the burden has not decreased.

PA's analysis found that relatively few accountability requirements account for a large proportion of the imposed costs on institutions. The report recommends that action to streamline these requirements or to align them more closely with institutions' own management processes would go far to reducing perceptions of burden among institutions.

It also discusses the scope for a more rigorous process of constructive challenge to existing and new accountability requirements, extending the work undertaken in recent years by the Higher Education Regulation Review Group.