Consorting with the consortia – the 30% target

You might think there is nothing new about collaborative procurement in higher education. After all, there are six main procurement consortia based in England that have been working with institutions for some years. They help with collaborative procurement among institutions and between HE and other sectors.

What is new is that there’s a target to hit, as set by the Diamond Report on Efficiency and Modernisation. By 2016, it is expected that 30% of non-pay spend should be through effective collaborative arrangements.

That’s a tough target, and it raises a number of questions.

Is it easy to achieve?

Well, there can be more of the same. In other words, HEIs continuing to use the existing collaborative agreements, while placing greater pre and post commitments to them. There can be frameworks for areas of spending not yet normally considered for collaborative procurement, with spending on estates and facilities being a main focus.

What does this mean for the consortia?

The six consortia should be able to expand and consolidate their agreements with institutions. However, they will need to play a bigger role as the experts in collaboration, in order to connect HEIs with other bodies and thus achieve collaborative procurement with partners beyond the HE sector.

Is the target helpful?

Yes, because it is value laden, in that collaborative procurement implies economies of scale, better buying power, efficient processes and minimised risks.

Is that the point of the target?

No, the real point of the target is to bring about better non-pay spend, with money going further because of the savings derived from collaborative procurement through consortia involvement.

So, what should institutions do now?

The 30% target is going to be a challenge and institutions must make full use of the consortia of which they are members to achieve the collective target.

About the six main consortia

There are four regional consortia, LUPC (London Universities Purchasing Consortium), NEUPC (North Eastern Universities Purchasing Consortium), NWUPC (North Western Universities Purchasing Consortium) and SUPC (Southern Universities Purchasing Consortium). In addition, TEC (The Energy Consortium) and TUCO (The University Caterers Organisation), undertake tendering in their specialist areas on behalf of their members, both HEI and other.

The role of English National Procurement

English National Procurement (ENP) brings together the Chairs and Managing Directors of the six consortia. ENP also has members involved in supporting procurement as well as representatives from the main professional associations and HEFCE (Higher Education Funding Council for England). Chairs and Managing Directors from Scottish and Welsh based collaborative bodies attend ENP as invitees.

ENP and its predecessor, ENPC (English National Purchasing Consortium), have been working with colleagues over many years to develop and expand a UK contracts programme. Whether at a national or regional or local level the benefit of collaborative procurement is thus readily available through the consortia.

ENP’s agenda also includes seeing how the six consortia can work even more closely together and share resources and expertise to meet the needs of their member institutions. This is in line with the Diamond Report recommendation that the relevant sector bodies should work together to establish a model for England based on the Advanced Procurement for Universities and Colleges (APUC) model in Scotland.

Peter Hinton is Chair of ENP and Interim Director of Legal and Governance Services, Liverpool John Moores University