Team of the Month 12/20: The WU cost-performance accounting team

Universities are required to set up a new cost-performance accounting system: The Austrian government passed a new ordinance on cost-performance accounting at universities that entered into effect on January 1, 2017. The main objective of this ordinance is to set uniform standards to make it easier to compare performance costs between different universities. Under these new rules, universities have to collect data for the indicators “teaching costs” and “research costs” and break them down by discipline groups. The first deadline for submitting this data to the Austrian Ministry of Education, Science and Research is August 31, 2021.

To facilitate the exchange of ideas and experiences between universities during the project phase, a cross-university project steering group was established in addition to WU’s own project team. The cost-performance accounting project team: Susanne Bäuerl, Claudia Johnsen, Ines Mitterbäck, Elke Nobis, Astrid Paulis, Sylwia Radwanski, Klaus Schauer (Financial Control), Matthias Ziehmayer (IT), Robert Krikawa, Markus Schelenz (Academic Controlling), Julia Höcher (Program Development & Policy).

The first phase of the project was all about analyzing the ordinance and drawing up a rough concept. In certain aspects, the ordinance leaves some room for interpretation. For this reason, the project required a continuous exchange of theoretical concepts and different perspectives, both within WU and across universities.

From theory to practice

Last year, some parts of the project were starting to take concrete form. Some key decisions were finalized and the implementation process was launched.

This specific form of cost accounting needs to operate within the framework defined by the ordinance, and it also has to include some additional aspects that are specific to the new regulations (e.g. estimates of performance time, specific analyses of room data). This means that the project was much more complex than the implementation of a standard cost accounting system.

Teamwork between different in-house experts was key for getting it done. “It was quite a large-scale project that involved specialists from many different WU units,” says Klaus Schauer, who has been involved in the program since last year.

Hitting the home stretch

During the first COVID-19 lockdown, the team managed to successfully switch all project activities to online formats very quickly, and the project is currently in its final phase. This requires another concerted team effort.

“At the moment, we’re busy entering the accounting cycles, mapping charts, and statistical indicators into SAP, and we’re also visualizing and documenting the theoretical concepts,” explains Susanne Bäuerl, one of the SAP specialists from the Financial Control team.

“Starting February 2021, the cost and performance accounting system will be subjected to an additional review by WU’s auditor,” says Claudia Johnsen, “so we’re putting together a manual that presents the complex subject matter in a way that is as easy to understand as possible to facilitate a comprehensive audit.”

The start of the final project phase coincided with the second COVID-19 lockdown, but the members of the project team are confident that they will also master this additional challenge.

Team of the Month

Research and teaching are the key areas of a university’s work, and the most visible. However, the work of the administrative staff is also very important for making sure that a university can operate smoothly and successfully. The members of our administrative staff may not be as highly visible as our researchers, but it’s their commitment that provides our researchers and teaching staff with crucial services like a powerful IT infrastructure, state-of-the-art library services, effective support services for faculty and researchers, tailor-made in-house training programs, or personal support in running the day-to-day operations of an institute – all of this requires careful planning and organization. To bring some of these people into the spotlight, we are naming a Team of the Month 6 times a year to introduce selected members of the administrative personnel and reward them for their important achievements in specific projects.