2014 – another great year of efficiency initiatives

Santa and Rudolph delivering presents
Festive efficiency: Santa makes full use of Rudolph’s resources to share the gift delivery service.
As Efficiency Exchange prepares to take a short break over the Christmas holidays, Ian Powling looks back at some of the highlights of the past year in efficiency.

The government’s grant letter to HEFCE in February set the efficiency agenda for 2014. It stressed the importance of value for money and asked the sector to take another look for further ways of promoting efficiency in higher education.

Since then, Universities UK has been working with a range of partner organisations, looking at some new areas: delivering value from the HE estate, sharing equipment and open data, as well as workforce performance and responsiveness.

Once again, Professor Sir Ian Diamond has been leading on this work, which will culminate in a report coming out on 26 February 2015.

Back to 2014…

The year kicked off strongly with Dharm Kapletia and Wendy Phillips of the University of the West of England launching their Strategic Sourcing Toolkit at the Strategic Sourcing: new approaches to deliver success conference on 4 February. Their project was funded by the Innovation and Transformation Fund.

UUK showcased the sector’s work towards efficiencies in procurement, asset sharing and estates at its 3rd annual Efficiency in HE conference on 27 March. The event was sponsored by Jisc, whose chief executive Martyn Harrow underlined the importance of efficiency and value for money.  

Procurement continues to be a key area in which value for money can be attained. The sector achieved savings of £153m according to the results of the 2012-13 procurement efficiency measurement model (EMM) survey published by Hefce. To continue the drive to professionalise procurement, the HE Procurement Academy provided e-learning and guidance, and SUPC delivered Procurement Maturity Assessments to help HEIs better understand their capabilities. Both services were also funded by the Innovation and Transformation Fund.

Our most prolific contributors were the indefatigable Andrew Rothwell and Ian Herbert of Loughborough University who posted on shared services. Look out for a publication from this duo on shared services in higher education next year.


The N8 Research Partnership has been busy looking at how asset sharing can potentially drive collaboration between institutions and equipment.data.ac.uk is helping to make research equipment more discoverable.

We’ve heard that ‘data is the new oil’ and now opportunities for open data to support efficiency are being explored, as part of a new initiative led by Universities UK and the Open Data Institute. Procurement, student choice and business intelligence are all areas that could potentially benefit from open data. Check out this series of seminars and articles to find out more.

The sector continues to explore how VAT-exemption rules can be put to good use in shared services. Hefce has stimulated a programme of projects to develop good practice in the use of cost sharing groups. Meanwhile, Jisc is forming the UK’s largest cost sharing group as its new business model.

A number of our interviews and articles were featured on the Guardian higher education network, and our community of content partners grew with the addition of Hespa, S-Lab and USHA. We were also pleased to see institutions increasingly sharing their good practice and knowledge via our network. Their posts were among the most read during the year.

Most read in 2014

Here’s a roundup of the year’s most read posts.

  1. Centrally managed, locally delivered: University of Westminster’s model for efficient corporate services
  2. Efficiency Measurement Model (EMM) survey launches end July
  3. 5 new ways in which universities are seeking value for money
  4. The role and value of the HE estate
  5. Portsmouth University investigates sharing IT facilities with city schools
  6. BUFDG 2014 Annual Conference, 6-8 April, University of Leicester
  7. A fresh approach – LUPC case study March 2013
  8. Diamond report expected to inform 2015 spending review decisions, minister says
  9. “I’m too busy to think about efficiency!”
  10. 5 ways to kick start your change programme

More to come from the Efficiency Exchange…

We’re pleased to say that a funding award from the Innovation and Transformation Fund will underpin the Efficiency Exchange service through to 2016. We’ll be posting more articles and case studies relating to the forthcoming efficiency report, so keep an eye out for those.

And the issues raised in the report will be fully discussed the 4th Annual Efficiency in Higher Education conference on 25 March 2015, to be held at Woburn House.

Thank you for following Efficiency Exchange in 2014. We look forward to sharing more examples of efficiency in higher education with you in the new year.

Dates for your diary

  • 26 February 2015 – Launch of Efficiency and Effectiveness in HE report at Woburn House and live webcast
  • 25 March 2015 – 4th Annual Efficiency in HE conference at Woburn House

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Ian Powling is the digital programmes lead at Universities UK

Ian Powling
Senior Education Advisor CCEG