For Staff

UniForum Professional Services Benchmarking Programme

The UniForum Professional Services Benchmarking Programme is a well-tested services activity data collection exercise and survey that enables us to evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness of our administration and support services against a number of Russell Group universities.

Having initially signed up to the programme in 2015 for four years and committed to collecting data biennially (2015 and 2017), we have decided to continue to participate and will therefore be collecting data again this year.

The programme is led by Cubane Consulting and was originally developed in Australia and New Zealand, where it has been running for ten years. The UK programme began in 2015 and there is also a programme now running in Canada.

At Leeds, the project is sponsored by Jane Madeley, Chief Financial Officer, on behalf of the University Executive Group and it is managed by the Strategy and Planning team.

Why is UniForum so important?

The data collected through the programme provides insight into how we resource different activities and services that underpin and support our teaching and research work in comparison to other peer institutions. It gives us information we can use to help the services develop the agility and responsiveness required to realise the ambitions set out in our Strategic Plan.

This includes:

  • how we resource various professional services activities that underpin our teaching and research work
  • how our approach benchmarks against other peer institutions, in particular other Russell group universities; and
  • identifying where there might be a case for new investment in order to make the most of future opportunities.

It also gives us the opportunity to collaborate with some of our peer universities so we can learn and share best practice in these areas.

What has previous data been used for?

UniForum provides one of a number of data sets that has helped inform an evidence-based approach to the planning of professional services that support academic activities at Leeds. Data from the 2015 and 2017 collections has been used in a variety of ways, including the development of business cases for investments to improve services, such as the Corporate Processes and Systems Programme and the Student Lifecycle Programme.

Individual heads of professional services have also used the data in different ways, including providing evidence of where headroom could be created within a service, by operating more efficiently, and thereby allowing the service to respond to new demands within its existing budget and more generally reflecting on what the data tells them in preparation of their Integrated Planning Exercise (IPE) submissions.

Although we expect UniForum to help us improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our professional services, the process is not being driven primarily by a need to make savings.

How does UniForum work?

There are two parts to the UniForum Professional Services Benchmarking Programme – the Activity Data Collection (Staff and Supplier Collections) and the Service Effectiveness Survey.

The Activity Data Collection will be undertaken between Wednesday 7 August and Wednesday 11 September 2019, and will identify how much time is being spent supporting different administration and support activities by staff at Leeds and contracted-in resources. There have been no significant changes to the programme for the 2019 collection and colleagues who participated in 2017 should be familiar with the data collection. As with previous collections, respondents will be identified by heads of professional services and HR colleagues, and will then be contacted directly by our UniForum Programme Team.

The second part of the programme, the Service Effectiveness Survey, delivers insights into the perceived effectiveness of a range of services at Leeds, as experienced by colleagues.

The survey will take place later in 2019 and will seek feedback regarding some of the key support services at Leeds, including finance, purchasing, human resources, information technology, marketing and student recruitment, research support, student and teaching support and facilities management.

The survey is not designed to give specific feedback on individuals, but focuses on the overall service delivered. It is also worth noting that in order to benchmark across a range of universities with a range of structures, the labels and descriptions of the services covered in the survey are thematic and relate to activities delivered, sometimes by a combination of our professional services; they do not necessarily map directly to a single professional service as organised at Leeds.

Again, this activity provides one data set that should be considered in conjunction with other qualitative information, such as the results from our staff survey.

Together, the Activity Data Collection and the Service Effectiveness Survey marry resourcing and effectiveness, helping provide an understanding of support services at Leeds and a comparison against a group of our peers.

Further information

Updates on the programme’s progress will be available via this For Staff In Depth page and from heads of professional services, HR managers and the UniForum Programme Team at Leeds.

You can also access a useful FAQ sheet, updated in May 2019.