Financial benchmarking transforms the University of the West of Scotland

Posted by Admin on December 24, 2018

University of the West of Scotland (UWS) is one of Scotland’s largest modern universities, and aims to have a transformational influence on the economic, social and cultural development of the West of Scotland, and beyond.

The university provides relevant, high quality, inclusive higher education and innovative and powerful research.

UWS trusted Tribal to undertake benchmarking as Tribal have worked with over 60 universities and hundreds of colleges across the UK.

The Challenge

UWS made the decision to undertake a benchmarking exercise to help understand how other Higher Education institutions are resourced, with particular reference to the cost of schools, professional support departments and staff costs.

Tribal and UWS commenced benchmarking in November 2016, the timescale of this exercise was delivered over a 6-week period to December 2016.

Tribal provided a total health check on the use of resources across the whole institution to understand where UWS resources were currently deployed and where potential imbalance may exist, either within schools or professional service departments. 

Speaking on behalf of UWS, Elizabeth O’Reilly Business Process Improvement Manager said:

"Through in-depth knowledge of our business processes, the increasing level of operational costs became apparent.There was a required need to invest resources to essential areas such as student experience,and this resulted in a need to fully understand and drive operational efficiencies. Tribal’s benchmarking service, based on sector comparative reviews, allowed us to do this."

The Solution

Financial Benchmarking provides reliable, objective and independently validated comparative data helping managers to see the financial performance of other universities; informing financial and strategic decision-making.

The methodology adopted at UWS involved a review of principal activities, associated activities, capital and financing and incomparable factors across Schools and Professional departments. Tribal’s financial benchmarking resulted in 700 objective measurements covering all aspects of the institutions activity. The benchmarking exercise included:

  • Detailed analysis of all items of income and costs, compared “like for like” with other universities to determine where UWS may be different.
  • Each teaching school analysed and compared against similar faculties /schools elsewhere.
  • Each support function analysed to get a true picture of the costs of the function, not just the central department.
  • Contextualised feedback of results took place through detailed discussions with university senior management, Deans, Directors and key Heads of Departments.
  • Bespoke comparisons against other higher education institutions/colleges provided the knowledge to identify focussed needs within specific areas, both through improvement or reinvestment requirements.

Speaking on behalf of Tribal, Nick Pidgeon Managing Consultant of Tribal’s financial benchmarking team, said:

"We are delighted to be working with UWS, because of in-depth benchmarking analysis they now have better informed data which will be used to inform critical business strategies. The benchmarking report will be taken forward through discussions around the effective and efficient use of resources within UWS, as part of an ongoing Transformation project."

Speaking about financial benchmarking, Trevor Gabriele, Chief Finance Officer at UWS said:

"Working with Tribal delivered an informed knowledge and evidence base of financial analysis across the sector. This resulted in the UWS senior leadership team having the ability to make key decisions, strategically and financially focused. Areas for investment are now more clearly focused."


Tribal’s financial benchmarking has benefitted UWS in the following ways:

  • The benchmarking data that Tribal have delivered allows UWS a greater understanding of where spend is currently being focused and identifies areas where improvements are required.
  • The analysis allowed comparators with similar structured organisations based on multi-campus model. This data is integral to identifying areas where investments should be focussed through devolved and centralised functions.
  • Services, and Deans/Directors now better understand the financial and functional operation within UWS. The benchmarking has provided an external comparator set to strengthen resource requests through the Operational Planning process.

Working with Tribal

Speaking on behalf of UWS, Elizabeth O’Reilly Business Process Improvement Manager said:

"The Tribal team were a highly professional and effective team. The team were extremely supportive and positive in their approach, easing the minds of senior staff whilst seeking key information and asking challenging questions. The efforts and communication of the Tribal team was excellent and proved to be a positive contributor during this period of change and transformation. UWS would welcome working with Tribal in the future."


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