UniForum is a benchmarking service offered by Cubane Consulting, which involves the application of a well-tested methodology for capturing data regarding the distribution of all university support services against a comprehensive Activity Framework.
The project will see us collaborating with a number of other Russell Group universities to benchmark how we organise our professional services to support teaching and research. It will help us to share best practice and identify where we need to invest in order to maximise future opportunities.
Although we expect UniForum to help us improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our professional services, the process is not being driven by the need to make savings. It will be very valuable to benchmark ourselves against universities of similar scale and complexity, and develop best practice from experiences across the participating institutions.
The survey will not be the only source of data considered in future planning of professional support services - it is simply a first step in informing the general approach which will take to identifying improvement opportunities. Other sources of qualitative and quantitative data will be considered as well, and we will also actively consult with staff to incorporate their views.
All member institutions will follow the same methodology when completing the survey. The methodology was developed by Cubane Consulting, and has already been in operation in Australia and New Zealand for six years.
The project is sponsored by the University Executive Group and is being managed at the University by the Strategy and Planning team. Updates on the progress of programme will be available via For Staff and the Reporter.
The following institutions are also taking part of UniForum in 2015: Glasgow, Cambridge, Newcastle, KCL, UCL, Manchester, Birmingham, Durham, and Liverpool.
Oxford, Queen Mary and Southampton will begin to gather data in 2016.
The participating universities commissioned this project earlier this year and the first survey - an activity survey - was undertaken during July and August. That survey involved respondents from service managers/team leaders in central as well as Faculty and School-based teams.
A service effectiveness survey will be carried out for three weeks in November, from 3 to 23 November 2015.
Its expected that the initial findings will be presented to institutions early in 2016.
UniForum is a four-year programme, with institutions committed to at least undertaking the survey in alternate years (ie, years 1 and 3 or years 2 and 4), although universities can choose to collect data in all four years. The University of Leeds has committed to undertaking the Activity Survey in year 1 (2015). Involvement in the first round of data collection gives us more opportunity to influence the approach and design of the programme and also enables our involvement in collaborative studies with member universities to understand resource drivers which take place following the first years data collection.
In addition to the activity benchmarking exercise, we will also be undertaking an optional Service Effectiveness Survey, which enables satisfaction with services to be measured and highlights the attributes of a service that contribute to its satisfaction ratings.
The primary data collected by UniForum Activity Survey covers all administration and support service staff and will identify how much time these staff spend supporting different administration and support activities, as well as how much resource is contracted in to provide support services.
The primary data inputs cover:
A survey of managers and supervisors is used to collect how they allocate their staffs time to 142 activities over the past 12 months (smallest allocation is 10%).
A separate survey of managers of contracted services follows a similar process to allocate the provided services to the 142 activities.
Senior managers across the University are 'Primary Contacts' who will provide a local review of the information supplied by the managers and supervisors in their area and approve the surveys before submission.
Surveys are completed using a web-based survey tool; the processes supporting this are managed by the Universitys UniForum Survey Administrator.
This survey is to seek feedback regarding some key support services at the University: finance, purchasing services, human resources, information technology, marketing and student recruitment, research support, student and teaching support and facilities management. All responses to the survey are confidential, and no-one at Leeds will have access to individual feedback.
This is the first time the survey has been carried out in the UK, but different universities in Australia and New Zealand chose to join UniForum for a variety of reasons and use the resulting information in different ways depending on their individual circumstances and objectives. Some recent outcomes at other universities have included: programmes for the continuous improvement of service delivery; business case support for investment in systems; and skills upgrades for service delivery teams.
We are employing a number of strategies to ensure the data obtained under the survey is as accurate and representative as possible. We will provide all Primary Contacts with progress reports at appropriate intervals during the survey, so that they can review the data that is being submitted and follow-up anything that may need double-checking. We are also actively encouraging those professional staff members responsible for completing the survey (Survey Respondents) to consult with colleagues directly if they are unsure about what activity allocations should be submitted.