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Discover the unique practices, stories, and insights on efficiency from Europe’s leading university managers and share your expertise with the higher education community. You can search for good practices by country, by type of institution, by type of practice or by keyword.

Open participation in the design of the university strategic plan

University of Trento

Comprehensive university

Type of practice reported: Institutional -> Governance and strategy -> Strategy planning

Italy

The strategic plan 2017-2019 of the University of Trento has been designed on the basis of a broad consultation of all governing bodies and representatives of the whole university community. All academic and administrative units were asked to submit a "project for improvement" addressing operational and practical issues through a call for proposals. Top 35 projects in line with the university's priorities were selected and integrated in the strategic plan. The University of Trento pursues the process of continuous improvement by: - Fostering a culture of quality, quality methods and tools; - Self-assessment, critical approach and continuous improvement in the management of all processes that contribute to quality improvement; - Timely action to correct the existing actions and policies, if necessary.

Efficient access schemes for vulnerable students

Irish higher education sector

Various higher education institutions

Type of practice reported: Sector-wide -> Other -> Access to higher education

Ireland

Seven Irish universities, Dublin Institute of Technology, Athlone Institute of Technology and the National College of Ireland have collaboratively developed and rolled out the reform and extension of third-level access schemes for students from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds and for students with a disability. Since 2010, the number of participating HEIs has increased from the initial eight to 18. Funding from the HEA’s Strategic Innovation Fund, through a project managed by the Irish Universities Association, has been used to improve the previous schemes on offer to these students. It has also greatly increased administrative and other efficiencies in their delivery, for both students and colleges. In doing so, the Higher Education Access Route (HEAR) (aimed at school leavers from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds) has been extended from 305 to all 730 secondary schools in Ireland, while the Disability Access Route to Education (DARE) is now based on a more transparent use of assessment criteria. It has a more streamlined application process and is more student friendly. Both HEAR and DARE aim to greatly increase the numbers of students from these two target groups applying for college by offering quotas of places (an average of 5% for each scheme across all academic areas) on a reduced Leaving Certificate points basis. Students who secure one of these places are also offered a range of academic and personal supports while at college. A key reform element has been the full integration of both these schemes into the online CAO application process. A dedicated website www.accesscollege.ie has also been developed to provide full details of the schemes and assist students in making their application, and full communications campaigns across schools and target groups have been rolled out.

Shared undergraduate application services

UCC, NUIG, NUIM, DCU, CIT & WIT

Type of practice reported: Sector-wide -> Other -> Application services

Ireland

The Postgraduate Applications Centre (PAC) is a shared service for postgraduate applications in Ireland. It is currently used by UCC, NUI Galway, NUI Maynooth, DCU, CIT and WIT, as well as for students applying to postgraduate programmes offered under the 3U consortium of DCU, NUIM and RCSI. Established in 1998 by the NUI universities to provide a common applications process for their Postgraduate Diploma in Education (fomerly Higher Diploma in Education) programmes, activities and participating institutions have been expanded in recent years with the introduction of an online postgraduate application system for other postgraduate programmes, both taught and research. PAC is now an important tool for the promotion of Irish postgraduate education internationally.

Shared IT services

HEAnet

Higher education company

Type of practice reported: Sector-wide -> Other -> Shared infrastructure

Ireland

HEAnet is Ireland’s National Education and Research Network or NREN. It is part of a global network of NRENs. In 1983, HEAnet was established as a collaborative initiative of Irish universities to provide national and international network services for the sector. HEAnet was formally constituted as a limited company in 1997, owned and managed by its members. At present, there are over 65 participating institutions. HEAnet provides Internet connectivity alongside essential e-Infrastructure and ICT related services to higher education institutions, primary and secondary schools and some other research and educational organisations in Ireland. The range of services has expanded over the life time of the company, to include new developments where ICT can effectively share resources and exploit economies of scale. Examples of recent developments include: 1) Inclusion of software licence procurement (formally CHEST Ireland) within the HEAnet service 2) Development of video conferencing, video streaming and related multimedia services 3) Full integration of the University and IoT network services under HEAnet 4) Edugate, the Irish Education Identity Federation www.edugate.ie 5) Provision of 24 x 7 service and monitoring 6) 100Mb Post-primary Broadband roll-out 7) Edustorage – Cloud storage service The HEAnet Board and its member Institutions actively review the potential for further sharing of services and the transition of these services to the HEAnet framework.

Shared undergraduate application services

Central Applications Office

Type of practice reported: Sector-wide -> Other

Ireland

The Central Applications Office (CAO) is responsible for overseeing and processing first year undergraduate applications in Ireland. Its primary mission is to centrally process applications in a fair, transparent and efficient manner. It was established in 1976 by the Irish universities. The Central Admissions Service (CAS) was introduced independently by the Regional Technical Colleges. In 1991, the CAO and CAS combined their admissions procedures with two systems effectively running in parallel covering approximately 21 higher education institutions. In 1998 the CAS was subsumed within the CAO system. At present there are 45 institutions within the CAO system catering for 77,000 applicants offering 1380 courses at Bachelor's and Master's levels.

Introducing an internal performance assessment system for all levels

University of Graz

Comprehensive university

Type of practice reported: Institutional -> Governance and strategy -> Innovation, change & process

Austria

A strategic alliance was created by three universities in Graz to become more efficient in terms of using resources and facilities, to be more successful in generating research funds and ensure better quality of teaching. To improve the overall performance of research and teaching, the University of Graz (UG) conducts strategic analysis, benchmarking and institutional research. UG developed a system of internal performance agreements at all levels (university - department - researcher) as well as a data-monitoring and interactive feedback system to improve the fullfillment of strategic goals. In academic matters, the top priority for UG is the external research evaluation to improve the research output/impact of the departments and training of young researchers. In this context, one of the main objectives is to create a clear research profiling of the present staff situation. Another priority is related to the improvement of the teacher-student-ratio, which is a great challenge due to a considerable share of studies with free access.

Increasing student performance

Type of practice reported: Policy

Student drop out is an important topic for Romanian universities. One of the past and current challenges at University Politehnica of Bucharest (UPB) is to deal with fewer financial resources than in the past and to deliver quality education and training to our students. UPB designed an effective institutional framework to deploy financial resources for increasing student performance. These activities focused on curriculum design, teachers' continuous training, and learning experiences design. In addition, UPB works on developing appropriate tools to measure quality, effectiveness, and efficiency.

Looking for affordable ways to improve teaching and learning

South East European University

Comprehensive university

Type of practice reported: Institutional -> Teaching and Learning -> Teaching enhancement and career paths

FYROM

South East European University (SEEU) is developing and operating schemes that will contribute to maximizing the opportunities for teaching and learning and at the same time not burden the budget. For instance, peer-to-peer teaching observation is an instrument that helps measure the quality of teaching and learning and is used as a performance indicator in staff annual evaluation. All new teaching staff takes part in the induction programme. Currently, SEEU is in the process of creating a new tutoring scheme for newly enrolled students and developing a tutoring guide engaging both students and professors to make changes in the ranking and remuneration system.

Improving efficiency through internal performance assessment

University of Latvia

Comprehensive university

Type of practice reported: Institutional -> Governance and strategy -> Innovation, change & process

Latvia

South East European University (SEEU) is developing and operating schemes that will contribute to maximizing the opportunities for teaching and learning and at the same time not burden the budget. For instance, peer-to-peer teaching observation is an instrument that helps measure the quality of teaching and learning and is used as a performance indicator in staff annual evaluation. All new teaching staff takes part in the induction programme. Currently, SEEU is in the process of creating a new tutoring scheme for newly enrolled students and developing a tutoring guide engaging both students and professors to make changes in the ranking and remuneration system.

Using data to reduce drop out

Nottingham Trent University

Comprehensive university

Type of practice reported: Institutional -> Teaching and Learning -> Learning analytics

United Kingdom

At Nottingham Trent University, drop out was reduced 50% using data on student engagement with university. Smart cards provide tutor with information about students who stop using the library to identify those at risk of dropping out.

Financial information system

University of Amsterdam

Comprehensive university

Type of practice reported: Institutional -> Professional Services -> Other

Netherlands

The University of Amsterdam approached efficiency from a financial angle, while implementing a full cost accounting system for the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Development (FP7). Almost all university budgets are handed over to the faculty deans. All university support is concentrated in Shared Service Departments, which receive payment for their services from the faculties under internal service level agreements. Teaching and research are included in the financial records system as key cost drivers. All information systems are united in the same management system with dashboards for the main topics used for reporting. Various graphs are sent regularly to project leaders and course managers to give them information to act on. The system offers three functions: monitor, analyse, and drill into detail. The system is not judgemental, as it shows how things are done by communicating the content to the faculties.

Analytics for performance management

University of Warwick

Comprehensive university

Type of practice reported: Institutional -> Professional Services -> Information technology

United Kingdom

The University of Warwick has been developing its analytics capability since 2006 to facilitate data-driven performance management for academics using top commercial software tools. Several internal datasets (Applications & Awards, Student Records, Publications and HR) were linked into one reporting model to establish a review process for research performance, teaching quality and educational analytics. This model also incorporated HESA data for external benchmarking. Access to the system was restricted to Heads of Department and nominees. Warwick’s research performance is subject to annual review based on the output metric. An Institutional Teaching and Learning Review is run across all academic departments every five years (37 reviews run over 2 weeks covering 786 courses and programmes). The Teaching Quality team is responsible for the periodic review of courses and departments based on Quality Assurance Agency requirements and compliance with Professional, Statutory and Regulatory Bodies Educational. Analytics reporting is embedded into the review process and includes both internal and external benchmarking. Recommendations are fed back to university committees and faculties to implement and share best practice.

Open space initiative

University of London

Comprehensive university

Type of practice reported: Institutional -> Professional Services -> Estates and facilities management (incl. library)

United Kingdom

The total average desk occupancy at the University of London was estimated at 43% compared to the perceived figure of 71%. The University launched the Beveridge programme in 2015 to provide an effective workplace for staff and encourage collaborative work by breaking down physical barriers, increasing the amount of space for academic and commercial events, and providing efficient and effective storage facilities. The programme triggered an institution-wide debate on the nature of academic work and activity-based working methods. The outcomes included a 45% increase in workspaces, 450 m2 increase in social spaces, 25% increase in capacity for academic events, and £800,000 increase in annual lease/hire revenue. Key factors for this success included commitment by leaders who started implementing the open plan (no desk – no office) and “smart working training” for staff.

Shared campus services

Falmouth University and the University of Exeter

Comprehensive university

Type of practice reported: Institutional -> Professional Services -> Finance -> Cost sharing

United Kingdom

Falmouth University and the University of Exeter created Falmouth Exeter Plus on the Penryn Campus in Cornwall to share library and academic skills, IT and student support, estates, accommodation and all retail services. Jointly owned by the two universities, the entity has its own senior management team and staff.

Green printing

University of Sheffield

Comprehensive university

Type of practice reported: Institutional -> Professional Services -> Estates and facilities management (incl. library)

United Kingdom

The introduction of a “My sustainable printer” service allowing employees to print from any device in any public area on campus reduced University of Sheffield printing bills by 60% and carbon emissions by 50%.

Design of energy efficient spaces

University of Northampton

Comprehensive university

Type of practice reported: Institutional -> Professional Services -> Estates and facilities management (incl. library)

United Kingdom

Following an audit of the use of staff rooms, lecture rooms, and car parks, the University of Northampton decided to design 40% smaller buildings to generate significant energy savings on its new campus.

Optimisation of high-cost laboratory space

University of Birmingham

Comprehensive university

Type of practice reported: Institutional -> Professional Services -> Estates and facilities management (incl. library)

United Kingdom

The University of Birmingham increased utilisation of high-cost laboratory space by developing larger, more flexible teaching laboratories that can be used by academics and students across a broad range of disciplines. This measure makes teaching more efficient by avoiding the need to run multiple lab classes and increases facility utilisation rate.

Efficiency through purchasing consortia

The Rovira I Virgili University

Comprehensive university

Type of practice reported: Institutional -> Professional Services -> Finance -> Procurement

Spain

The Rovira i Virgili University is part of a flexible purchasing consortium that allows members to benefit from a standard negotiated price based on different invoice procedures and allows them to opt out of certain deals.

Shared services partnership

University of London

Comprehensive university

Type of practice reported: Institutional -> Professional Services -> Finance -> Shared services

United Kingdom

The member institutions of the University of London share the following services: student accommodation, joint halls facilities management and development, treasury management, student occupational health, university press, student services, legal and compliance services, project co-ordination. The members also share career services based on joint infrastructure (e.g. common career service interface, shared IT, job vacancy list, promotion, and internship scheme). Some levels of expertise are shared around skills training – one of the University’s most popular MOOCs is dedicated to skills development. In the past, three separate departments within the University of London offered various support services under different brands and operating models. In 2015, CoSector, a private limited company wholly owned by the University of London, was created as a single point of contact for the University’s professional and student support services in three areas: Digital & IT Solutions; Professional Development & Recruitment; Housing & Support Services. Commercially spirited in service and support solutions, all CoSector profits go back into education and the University of London’s academic endeavours. Moving toward CoSector involved a series of actions: full evaluation of product profitability, cost and performance; cost transparency of internal subsidies; separate internal and external customer base; closure and wind down of loss making or non-growth areas; market propensity and price increase testing; research and development of key growth areas; organisational development and digital transformation; KPI driven culture; transition to cloud based services, upskilling staff, and web and digital platform development.

Efficiency through a better internal coordination

The Rovira I Virgili University

Comprehensive university

Type of practice reported: Institutional -> Governance and strategy -> Innovation, change & process

Spain

The Universitat Rovira I Virgili enhanced internal coordination and efficiency with a new management system involving regular meetings for all management staff and a focused management improvement plan.

Increasing graduate employability

Ovidius University of Constanța (OUC)

Comprehensive university

Type of practice reported: Institutional -> Professional Services -> Student & academic services (incl. recruitment and admissions)

Romania

OUC aims to increase effectiveness by better preparing graduates for the labour market. The key way to address this goal is by strengthening the entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial education. OUC has partnered with University of Rochester (Ein Center for Entrepreneurship) , in a project initially funded by the Romanian-American Foundation and the US-Romania Fulbright Commission, to set up a cross campus entrepreneurial approach. Under this program, OUC academics and top administrators were trained and top UoR experts in entrepreneurship visited OUC to guide the transition. Additionally, in a partnership with Junior Achievement Romania, set up within the Entrepreneurial University program, OUC used a self-evaluation tool, prepared jointly by the European Commission and OECD, called HEInnovate (https://heinnovate.eu/), and is now in the process of training academics and involving students in pre-accelerator programs. Finally, OUC partnered with Google to establish a co-working space called “Atelierul Digital Google” to better prepare graduates for future jobs. The program started in 2016, the first major review being scheduled for 2020.

Effectiveness by improving teaching and learning

Ovidius University of Constanța (OUC)

Comprehensive university

Type of practice reported: Institutional -> Teaching and Learning -> Technology enhanced learning

Romania

OUC aims to increase its effectiveness by improving teaching and learning. To ensure a more effective teaching and to develop soft skills, a program, centered around the Department of Teacher Training but with a cross campus outreach, has been initiated to use inquiry-based learning (IBL) and problem/project-based learning (PBL). Experience with the IBL approach has been gained particularly through the program funded by the Romanian-American Foundation, called Teaching Physics Differently, whereas the PBL approach is inspired by the Maastricht University model. The program started in 2017 and its initial phase will spread over the next years until 2020.

Value for money strategy

University of Sheffield

Comprehensive university

Type of practice reported: Institutional -> Governance and strategy -> Strategy planning

United Kingdom

The University of Sheffield adopted a VFM Strategy to provide a framework for continual improvement in achieving VFM and the related annual reporting. The strategy has 11 key actions for communication and training of staff involved in policy and procurement decisions at all levels, best practice management of estates and facilities, a robust approach to capital project appraisal and budgetary control procedures, and the development of a culture of continuous improvement. The integrated strategy pervades every aspect of activities and sets clear responsibilities based on the Matrix of Economy, Efficiency and Effectiveness defined for Governance & Management, HR, Use of Facilities, Revenue Expenditure and Capital Expenditure. The strategy has guided a series of initiatives to share research infrastructure, review pooled teaching space, reduce energy use, improve procurement, and review IT support structures, contract compliance and student facing services. Examples of the activities and case studies are featured in the VFM reports.

Creating a dedicated to team for efficiency and effectiveness

University College Dublin

Comprehensive university

Type of practice reported: Institutional -> Governance and strategy -> Innovation, change & process

Ireland

The University College Dublin (UCD) has a strategic initiative to drive a customer focus to its system and process improvement agenda. An organisational reform was implemented in a number of key support units to ensure effective integration and efficient delivery of professional support to faculty and students. These include (a) realignment of devolved student adviser support to an integrated centrally managed support service delivering a coherent and consistent level of support to students; (b) establishment of a central unit to deliver an efficiency and effectiveness agenda across the institution. This unit uses LEAN 6 Sigma approaches to bring a customer focussed value-driven improvement approach to University business. UCD’s 2015-2020 strategic plan (www.ucd.ie/strategy2015-2020/) has ten objectives which shape planning at all levels of the University, directing progress towards the achievement of our vision. UCD Agile is a unit supporting this initiative across the University and delivers the theory and reflection on this matter in the University. A key driver, apart from delivering the primary goals of efficiency and effectiveness, is to use Lean’s focus on customers and value to ensure our processes and systems are customer-focused and effective. As part of the ‘culture shift’ aspect of this initiative the University is developing a ‘community of practice’ model (http://worksmartertogether.ucd.ie/ ) to support the broad process enhancement community within the University.

Efficiency through collaborative procurement

Federal Procurement Agency (BBG)

Ministry or public agency

Type of practice reported: Policy -> Direct support for efficiency -> Service offered for the sector

Austria

The Federal Government founded the Federal Procurement Agency (BBG, "Bundesbeschaffung GmbH" in 2001 by the Federal Procurement Agency Act ("BBGmbH-Gesetz") to provide central procurement services to federal agencies to negotiate framework contracts and make them available to the agencies. The BBG bundles requirements to obtain better prices and terms from suppliers and standardises public purchasing to reduce processing costs and legal risks. It applies e-procurement solutions to ensure consistency of the framework contracts and enhance the auditability of the procurement process. The e-procurement-solution comprises of an electronic publication and notification platform, a desktop purchasing system, a travel booking tool and a data warehouse and analysis tool. The BBG is a non-profit organisation offering free mandatory services to federal agencies. Other public organisations (e.g. universities, hospitals, state-owned organisations) may use BBG's contracts and services for a modest fee. Delivery and payment is done directly between supplier and requesting public body. The central aim of the BBG is to reduce costs of public procurement by standardisation and bundling of needs. In 2014 the FPA reported procurements of 1.2 Billion Euro and savings of 17.7 percent (253 Million Euro). Source: www.bbg.gv.at/english/about-the-fpa

Improving efficiency through better strategic planning

Riga Technical University

Comprehensive university

Type of practice reported: Institutional -> Governance and strategy -> Strategy planning

Latvia

The 2020 strategic plan of the Riga Technical University incorporated several elements focused on the development of infrastructure; scientific process, study process and HR. The new strategy was tied with the related performance-based funding model, linking funding to predictions, and equipped with a data monitoring system. Several challenges had to be addressed at the implementation stage, namely the need to discuss and accurately predict results jointly with the faculties, and prioritise the choice of relevant performance indicators for research, teaching and commercialisation by each faculty. The University’s experience shows that a good IT system with accurate data is highly important for both administration and faculties engaged in the planning process.

Increasing student engagement through learning analytics

Open University UK

Open university

Type of practice reported: Institutional -> Teaching and Learning -> Learning analytics

United Kingdom

The Open University has been using analytics to support their students for a long time. As the OU model means that all of their students are studying at distance, analytics is the way tutors have ‘sight’ of their students and are able to determine the timing and nature of appropriate interventions. First piloted in 2014, the project aims to identify students who might be at risk of dropping out of their studies to target interventions at an early enough point to help the student get back on track. It uses predictive analytics based on the behaviours and demographics of previous cohorts of students.

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