Glasgow Clyde College the challenge of financial resilience

Posted by Mat Kirby

Facing the same financial challenges that all Scottish colleges are tackling, Glasgow Clyde College has taken a bold new move to ‘understand how and where investment flows through the business’ to improve its financial resilience

New to the Scottish education sector, and having been in post as Principal and CEO of Glasgow Clyde College for just a few months, in 2018 Jon Vincent went in search of an effective way to understand how his organisation ‘ticked’ in order to bring the hearts and minds of his team together as one. Embarking on a benchmarking project, Jon knew that the analysis would provide a unique insight into efficiency levels within the college and would help his talented team of senior leaders to focus their investment and prioritise their improvement agenda.

Glasgow Clyde College was born of a merger of Anniesland College, Cardonald College and Langside College. Previously, these colleges had operated as distinct entities with three different sets of staff, students and driving principles. Five years on when Jon became Principal, these differences were still apparent – so he made it his mission to unite the institution with one identity, culture and purpose across it’s three locations.

Having used benchmarking analysis to drive change in his previous roles, Jon trusted that the due diligence of the approach would have far-reaching benefits and help bring his team together by focussing on ‘the numbers’. Despite some initial scepticism, the analysis process really helped the team get a handle on Glasgow Clyde College’s cost base and how it compared to other colleges, as well as supporting them to:

  • Use whole new sets of metrics and ways of looking at the data to tell the true financial story of the college – which proved a beneficial learning opportunity for the whole senior leadership team.
  • Understand income within the curriculum and the margins in each of the departments to identify where the college had under and over invested.
  • Map where administrators sit in the business, and how to restructure teams to alleviate inequitable workloads.

Jon shares one of the many “interesting penny-drop” moments” his team had:

“We have, as a college had a strategy of open access ICT and have invested heavily in kit. The analysis showed in the benchmark standards that in fact we have twice the number of computers than a college of comparable size. Of course when you invest in terminals, you also invest in software licensing and staff to maintain the equipment – meaning running costs elevate. It’s one of the reasons why Bring Your Own Device strategies have become so prevalent in education. Whilst BYOD doesn’t make sense for our student community now – it may in the future, so we need to be conscious of this”.

Whilst the ‘knee-jerk’ response might be to ‘cut’ ICT spend, Jon stressed that the analysis indicated a longer-term view would be more practical, and that over time the challenge would be to decide whether to replace or retire legacy equipment in favour of a BYOD strategy. His point being that ICT investment is now on the senior leadership team’s agenda and is being actively monitored within the wider context of how students’ technology preferences evolve over time.

Glasgow Clyde College appointed its benchmarking partner following a rigorous tender process, from which emerged a standout methodology. Highly experienced in this field throughout the world, and in the UK and Australia particularly, Tribal demonstrated how it had converted its commercial benchmarking methodology to work for the state funded Scottish education model. The benchmarking project promised to be able to provide Glasgow Clyde with in depth analysis of both pay and non-pay lines that the college had influence over.

Jon Vincent explains why he advocated benchmarking as a catalyst for improvement:

“I’d worked with Tribal on similar benchmarking projects before. The insights from those projects had helped me roadmap how to save money whilst simultaneously improving learner attainment. I knew I could trust the results because of their wealth of knowledge in this specialist field; I also knew that the process would provide a unique perspective into our costs, placing us in a more advantageous position to improve our financial resilience.”

Finally, Principal Jon Vincent shares his advice with Scottish colleges looking to drive efficiencies:

“Beyond any shadow of a doubt, I would recommend benchmarking to all Scottish colleges that are looking to overcome the huge financial challenges we have in this sector. Tribal’s benchmarking service provides a unique insight into efficiency levels within colleges, which is unrivalled in its ability to identify opportunities for improvement. Benchmarking is a powerful business improvement tool for individual colleges – and could really help our sector as a whole. “

So whilst a benchmarking project might not appear the ‘obvious’ approach to driving the efficiency and performance agendas in Scottish colleges, as proven at Glasgow Clyde College there is significant merit in adopting this educational best practice.

Check out our recent webinar on the subject of improving efficiencies in the Scottish education sector, or find out more about Tribal’s proven analysis & benchmarking services.

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