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Operational Benchmarking and Efficiency
Exec lead: Giles Carden
The UUK led Operational Benchmarking Project emerged out of the Diamond Review, funded by a joint HEFCE/ Leadership Foundation Innovation and Transformation programme grant to UUK. HESPA is represented on the steering group by Giles Carden, alongside representatives from BUFDG, UCISA, SCONUL, AHUA and HESA.
The first phase of the project aimed to get a better sense of current practices, data sources and uses of operational cost benchmarking in the sector, the six key findings were:
1) A range of benefits
2) Diversity and varying levels of openness
3) Good initiatives
4) Sector-level demand
5) Data sources need development
6) A common framework and taxonomy
In the second phase of the project the Steering group developed a proposed common framework and operational cost taxonomy. It also established a pilot project involving three universities across the range of pre and post ’92 institutions, to test the taxonomy. The second and final phase of this work asks the pilot institutions to test the taxonomy and start using their own and other available data to benchmark across the common areas identified.
A Common Approach to Benchmarking
Given the diverse nature of institutional structures and functions, there is never going to be a completely perfect approach. But this work will allow the sector to take an important step forward and provide the right conditions for developing a common approach to operational cost benchmarking. At the end of this project the aim is to make the taxonomy freely available along with supporting materials developed during the process. This will enable institutions and those with an interest in supporting benchmarking to use them and develop approaches that meet their own needs – all within a common framework.
On the question of competition regulation, UUK has received advice that benchmarking of operational functions should not necessarily be curtailed when thinking about competition law. Indeed, benchmarking operations against competitors may result in institutions offering their services more efficiently, which could benefit students and tax payers. However, care must be taken to ensure that participation in a benchmarking exercise does not result in the exchange of strategically useful information, which is effectively information that could result in a reduction of competition. Ideally, information should also be anonymised and particular care taken when benchmarking between a small number of institutions. UUK will develop this advice further and provide guidance to institutions along with the project outputs.
Over the past year the Diamond 2 Efficiency and Effectiveness Programme, hosted by UUK and chaired by Professor Sir Ian Diamond has been progressing several work streams. These are:
• Delivering value from the HE estate
• Evidencing efficiency
• The HE workforce
• Open Data
• Asset sharing
The final report on the programme is due to be published early in 2015. HESPA has been invited to make a particular contribution to the open data work stream.
You can find any relevant resources on the Operational Benchmarking Resources page.