FAS Reduces Use of External Consultants

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences reduced the amount it spends on hiring external consulting firms by 30 percent between 2009 and 2011, according to FAS Dean Michael D. Smith.

The cuts coincided with budgeting constraints imposed by the FAS administration to cope with a $220 million deficit wrought by the 2008 financial crisis.

But Smith said the decision to cut back on external spending is also part of a broader effort to make better use of Harvard’s resources.

“We've been trying as much as possible to use internal expertise," Smith said.

According to former Dean of FAS William C. Kirby, external firms have in the past advised the school on issues ranging from architectural design in Allston to the current system of divisional deans that Kirby instituted in 2003.

Smith said that FAS has currently enlisted consultants to help determine the best structure and capabilities of the planned online student registration portal.

In the past, consultants have been called in to help with hiring searches for high-level administrative positions. But FAS is currently conducting two high-profile searches—one for a new dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and one for a new faculty director for the Bok Center for Teaching and Learning—without the help of external firms.

“We did explore [the possibility of using consultants], but what we could get out of them was not that beneficial,” Smith said about the Bok Center search.

When faculty members are appointed, “search firms have no input,” Dean of the College Evelynn M. Hammonds said.

Across the University, consultants have been hired to assist in large-scale projects such as House renewal and library restructuring.

But administrators have decided not to use consultants on some recent major initiatives. The merger of Central Administration Information Technology and FAS Information Technology into a single IT system—Harvard University Information Technology—was completed last June with next to no use of consultants.

“Restructuring the IT organization was a large-scale change, and I think in most organizations the way you would approach that would be to hire one of the large consulting firms,” said Anne H. Margulies, the University’s chief information officer. “Instead of having the organization feel the change is being done to us from the outside, we decided to use a process using the organization that we have.”

Margulies added, “It’s hard to get consultants who can work really effectively in higher education...Consultants most often come with solutions that work extremely well in the private sector.”

—Staff writer Radhika Jain can be reached at radhikajain@college.harvard.edu.

—Staff writer Kevin J. Wu can be reached at kwu@college.harvard.edu.

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