In the context of higher education, commercial operations encompass the following:
Campus services typically included catering and student accommodation. They may be run by the institution or 'contracted out' and provided by a third party. For example, commercial bus companies are contracted by a number of institutions to operate bus services to enable students and staff to travel to the instution. As a general rule, campus services and facilities will be run to cover their costs, rather than with the aim of making a profit.
Commercial services for private clients include:
Commercial activities may be undertaken for profit, or as part of publicly supported research or knowledge transfer (KT).
KT involves the transfer of knowledge and expertise from the institution to private, public or non-for-profit organisations. Institutions may be receive funding from government to engage in KT activities. The aim of public funding is normally to help the development of a knowledge-based economy. This is an economy where advanced knowledge forms the basis of competitive success, and in turn leads to increased employment and economic growth. These outcomes lead to public as well as private benefits.
Governors should be aware that commercial operations, especially when working with private clients, may have a very different risk-return profile when compared to those activities traditionally associated with higher education institutions.
Further information about commercial operations can be found in Governors' briefing note No. 6: Commercial Operations
The rationale and some of the issues that institutions and governing bodies need to consider when developing alternative income streams are explored in the following presentation:
Getting to Grips with Research and Knowledge Transfer, explores the topic of Knowledge Transfer (Chapter 5) and the Governing Body Responsibilities for Research and Knowledge Transfer (Chapter 6).
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