Collaboration and shared services in UK higher education: report launch

Collaboration and shared services in UK higher education
Today sees the launch of a report on collaboration and shared services in higher education, which was commissioned by Efficiency Exchange. The report’s co-author Andrew Rothwell explains that with shared services “the best is yet to come”.

For more than 10 years Loughborough University’s centre for global sourcing and services has been conducting research into business transformation.

Our shared services research project has developed case studies which have involved leading organisations from business and the public sector and have particularly focused on finance transformation, integrated services and the evolution of the shared services model across a number of professional areas. Our research project with the Efficiency Exchange sought to integrate best practice from inside and outside the higher education arena.

There is a very significant existing body of knowledge and good practice which is well established in UK higher education, especially in respect of outsourcing, procurement, and some well-known examples of shared services, notably UCAS.

We agree with other leading commentators that UK Higher Education has achieved remarkable things in respect of efficiency but also that there are further efficiency gains to be made.

In many ways though, the best is yet to come with very significant further possibilities for innovative approaches in respect of business support services, academic support and even models of academic delivery, which have not yet been widely embraced by the UK higher education sector.

Interesting times

All this of course is in the context of a student population whose values are increasingly consumer oriented, international pressures on student recruitment , which present significant challenges to the UK and mean that markets that once appeared certain and reliable are now increasingly fragile, and of course a forthcoming general election, which could potentially see reductions in student fees and thus institutional funding. So these are what might euphemistically be called interesting times!

Our report, which we are presenting at a professional forum at Loughborough University today summarises the principal developments we have seen so far in seven key areas, the heart of which is data management and systems.

Here, there are tremendous opportunities in respect of cloud-based services, but a fundamental need to have firm foundations in place. The other six areas are, in no particular order and inevitably with some overlaps, shared business services, academic support, student facing campus services, asset sharing, cost sharing groups and strategic sourcing, and some especially innovative practice and potential in respect of shared academic delivery and campus sharing. We see each of these areas as having embedded good practice, but also potential for further development, particularly offshoring.

Our event today, as well as presenting a summary of our research, draws on expertise from the United States in the form of our research colleagues Chazey Partners. And we have a UK perspective, including Dr Mark Pegg, director of Chalfont Associates and former CEO of the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education and Andy Stephens, the financial director at Loughborough University.

Our aim is that attendees will take away a range of ideas and best practice from a diverse range of sources.

The report is by Dr Andrew Rothwell and Ian Herbert of Loughborough University. The publication was commissioned and produced by the Efficiency Exchange, with funding support by the Leadership Foundation and HEFCE via the Innovation and Transformation Fund.