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The following all staff message was sent by Ms Emma Rampton, Acting Registrary, on Thursday 27 April.

Dear colleagues

I am writing to provide you with a brief update on the UniForum benchmarking exercise. As you may recall from previous communications, UniForum involves 16 Russell Group universities working together to benchmark data relating to the cost and structure of various administrative services. The programme and methodology is provided by Cubane Consulting, a company that has run similar exercises with many Australian and New Zealand universities.

The data collection phase of the programme was completed in September 2016. A number of participating institutions, including Cambridge, also ran a staff survey shortly afterwards to gauge levels of user satisfaction with the services. We have now received the benchmarked results of last summer’s data collection, together with the findings of the service effectiveness survey. 

Under the oversight of the University’s UniForum Steering Committee, the Academic and Financial Planning and Analysis team has carried out an initial, high-level analysis of the results.  The key messages that have emerged are as follows:

  • The University’s total spend on administrative and professional services measured by the exercise for 2015/16 was £266m. This was just below average when benchmarked against other participating universities;
  • The results clearly reflect the distributed structure of the University;
  • Cambridge has comparatively high levels of administrative staff in mid to-higher cost bands, and lower than average levels in lower cost bands;
  • The University does not have a culture of outsourcing as was seen in some other universities, particularly those based in London;
  • The University has high numbers of generalist administrative staff and fewer specialists;
  • The University has a high proportion of administrative staff in managerial roles with limited spheres of influence (in other words, comparatively high numbers of managers overseeing lots of small teams).

On first examination, the results present a picture of administration at Cambridge that many people will recognise. However, it is worth noting that both the quality of the data and the process of collecting and interrogating it will be improved through successive exercises. The Steering Committee has therefore agreed to repeat the exercise in 2017-18.

The Steering Committee is also organising a series of open meetings to give staff across the University the opportunity to learn more about the results from the 2016 exercise, UniForum in general, and the proposed next steps for the programme. Details of these are as follows:

Date Time Venue
Tuesday 16th May 15.30-16.30 Babbage Lecture Theatre, New Museums Site
Thursday 25th May 10.00-11.00 Clifford Allbutt Lecture Theatre, Clifford Allbutt Building, Addenbrooke’s site
Monday 12th June 15.30-16.30 Norwich Room, Roger Needham Building,
West Cambridge Site

Finally, I would like to reiterate why the University is taking part in this programme. Both the raw and benchmarked data – as well as the service effectiveness survey – will provide us with greater clarity in relation to the structure and resourcing of our administrative services. This in turn will help to inform discussions about how our administrative services can best support the University’s academic activity.

If you have any questions about this email, please contact either me, or Louise Vincent, the UniForum Programme Manager – Louise.Vincent@admin.cam.ac.uk.

Ms Emma Rampton

On behalf of the UniForum Steering Committee

Published

28 April 2017

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