Learning about Lean at the University of Lincoln


Recently I visited the University of Lincoln at the invitation of the Vice-Chancellor, Mary Stuart. She was keen for us to see how the university is being transformed. The strides they are making in delivering efficiency are not just about ‘cashable savings’; they are about putting students at the heart of everything they do. Report: Steve Butcher, Head of Procurement and Shared Services at Hefce.

This approach to efficiency is probably shared across universities and colleges – it’s just that when we talk about efficiencies it’s the money stuff which rises to the top of every conversation.

Lincoln is adopting LEAN principles and is beginning to see some impressive results.  LEAN, which has been championed by the University of St Andrews, involves creating more value for service users by streamlining processes within and across service departments.  Lincoln’s activity is beginning to show through in the university’s annual survey of students.

The first area that benefitted from the LEAN approach was the library, where resource has been shifted as a result of LEAN analysis so that students receive a more timely and enhanced service. Full details are available from Linda Marshall, Senior Executive Assistant (lmarshall@lincoln.ac.uk).

During the visit I talked to senior staff about how universities and colleges could make their work to enhance the student experience more widely known.  We looked at how the annual value for money reports to HEFCE could be adapted to reflect more of the efficiency activity which is going on in the sector. The new reports could be used for institutions’ internal purposes, for HEFCE reporting and as case study material to demonstrate how higher education is transforming itself for the benefit of students and wider society.

If there is anyone else out there who would like to show us what they are doing, we would be interested in hearing from you. We can’t promise we will visit everyone, but a few more days of ‘feet on the ground’ would be useful in developing our thinking.

Steve Butcher is Head of Procurement and Shared Services at Hefce.