FE College Finance – a collaborative approach to performance benchmarking

Posted by Phil Moseley on May 3, 2019

FE College Finance – a collaborative approach to performance benchmarking


Collaboration in FE is not a new concept, particularly when it comes to provision  (with an ITP or HEI) and/or shared services (such as HR and Payroll). Indeed, many colleges engage frequently with and benefit from collaborating with their AoC (or other) regional network. But what we are yet to see as a sector, is colleges regularly engaging in formal relationships with others around performance benchmarking… 

What we have seen is lots of examples of informal collaboration, where people know each other and share performance assessment data across colleges – and whilst the integrity of this approach to benchmarking is questionable due to the differences between organisations and how they structure themselves – it is a clear indicator that there is an openness to collaborate in this area too. 

Benchmarking, is after all, a great way to help the FE colleges involved to better understand and address their shared challenges around resourcing, strategic decision making, performance, value for money and student experience.  Typically identifying savings opportunities equivalent to 3% of an FE college’s revenue, benchmarking analysis not only measures performance, it drives change and helps to embed a culture of continuous improvement. It’s a proven way to gain the financial insight needed to challenge stakeholder assumptions and drive organisational investment.  

For example, should our commonly referenced sector KPIs (like ‘pay costs should equal 65% of income’) really be a standard you operate to?

With ‘evidencing performance and value for money statements’ high on the agenda for all colleges, here at Tribal we’re predicting that more and more, colleges will embrace a collaborative approach to ongoing performance assessment to help them justify big decisions moving forward.

The good news is that if colleges are willing to share normalised outputs with each other to better inform collective best practice, a stronger and more cohesive message can be delivered to policy makers, funding regulators and other stakeholders. This means colleges will be in a much stronger position to own the narrative that surrounds the ‘health of the FE sector’ and successfully influence decision-making.

Having worked with over 70% of FE colleges in the UK, here at Tribal, we know the real key for colleges open to this way of working, will be to embark on collaborative projects in a straightforward, objective manner that bypasses the cultural and structural differences that often hinder collaboration. 

Indeed, I will be discussing this very topic at AoC Annual Finance Conference in Nottingham on Wednesday 15th May. 

If you’d like to know more about how your college could be part of a collaborative project – the Benchmarking team here at Tribal is looking forward to hearing from you. 

 Register for our forthcoming webinar

Leading the way in delivering FE and HE benchmarking services for 25 years, the Tribal Benchmarking team was:

  • Trusted by the Northern Ireland Department for Economy to undertake a sector-wide value for money analysis in 2018. 
  • Partnered with the Welsh Government to deliver sector-wide benchmarking to all Welsh FE Colleges. 
  • Chosen by the New Zealand Tertiary Education Commission to deliver benchmarking services to all universities and ITPs in the region since 2007.


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