Benchmarking to improve efficiency

As we learned in the Diamond report, benchmarking practice is widespread within higher education, says Chris Hale of UUK.

A wide variety of activities and functions are benchmarked, including financial performance, space utilisation and student satisfaction. These can be benchmarked internally, against other institutions or against other sectors where meaningful comparisons can be made.

There is also a strong appetite to develop benchmarking as a tool for understanding and enhancing performance and effectiveness, and a number of agencies are working towards improving capabilities in the sector.

Improving our benchmarking capabilities

The Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) produced a report in 2010 highlighting the different approaches and areas of benchmarking activity in the sector, Benchmarking to improve efficiency.

Building on this work, HESA have co-developed a benchmarking infokit with Jisc. This will provide tools and evidence bases to support managers in their strategic planning.

Another notable development is the Benchmarking in HE service from the Association of Managers in Higher Education (AMHEC). This is providing tools and information to a selected number of higher education institutions. The approach is based on a set of performance indicators developed in the public sector by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA).

The Diamond report also says that benchmarking can be an important tool for driving efficiency.

For example, if a shared services initiative is to be successful, its planning must be based on reliable information about cost and potential benefits. The report found, however, that the benchmarking data on operational costs that institutions require need more development.

In response, a project is being led by Universities UK with sector partners to specifically address this recommendation, with support from the Innovation and Transformation Fund.

Phase 1 has just been completed, so look out for my next blog which will highlight the findings, next steps and how the sector can get involved.

Chris Hale is Deputy Director of Policy at Universities UK.

Vote in our poll

Which areas are benchmarked at your institution?

  • Student satisfaction (95%, 20 Votes)
  • Financial performance (86%, 18 Votes)
  • Space management (76%, 16 Votes)
  • Operational costs (52%, 11 Votes)

Total Voters: 21

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