University of Nottingham - Improving financial performance through benchmarking

Posted by Ella Higham

The University of Nottingham has been a customer of Tribal’s Financial Benchmarking for the last three years, aiming to positively impact the financial performance of the university to ultimately keep improving student performance.

Most recently, the university has combined the results of their financial benchmarking exercise with their i-graduate student barometer and staff survey results to give them a full overview of where they’re different to the sector in terms of financial costs and income, but also what their students and staff think about certain services.

The University of Nottingham is consistently ranked amongst the world's top 100 universities. It has over 46,000 students from 150 countries, overseas campuses in China and Malaysia, and strong links with universities and companies around the world, creating an inspiring place to study.

Challenging stakeholder assumptions

Tribal’s Benchmarking team provides comparative analysis of universities resources, giving the financial insight needed to challenge stakeholder assumptions and drive organisational investment. Our consultants work onsite to collect data and deliver detailed presentations to help improve buy-in and ensure report findings are fully understood.

The University of Nottingham’s current main challenge is around changing the financial culture of the university. With the long-term aim of getting to a point where they can put their hands on their hearts and say that they do not waste anything, and that their money is spent on things that really matter for the university.

Margaret Monckton – Chief Financial Officer, University of Nottingham said:

I always say that universities are not here to make money. They're here to grow and transfer knowledge across the world and so we do need to make sure that every pound goes as far as it possibly can. The biggest challenge that we have at the moment is the uncertainty in the sector, lots of financial challenges, the Augar review, we don't know what's going to happen with fees, and pension costs are going up. And obviously, we're in a very competitive environment due to students being able to choose the University that's right for them. So, we need to make sure that we're investing our money and not wasting any money.”



Triangulating benchmarking exercises together to reach one outcome

The University of Nottingham has recently completed two other benchmark exercises internally. With Tribal benchmarking and the two internal exercises, this resulted in key themes appearing throughout all three that nobody could argue with. Due to this, the university has developed a five-year programme aimed at simplifying processes, encouraging teams to work together and strengthening the financial position.

The exercises have helped the argument of change. Working in Higher Education, you have to engage people and in order to engage, you have to provide evidence. And so, it has enabled us to say, this looks like we should be using our space better, or investing in some professional services areas, or do we really need seven libraries? It has enabled us to initiate the conversation which has then enabled us to start to make changes


Results from the last Tribal Benchmarking exercise highlighted the need to explore why some areas had been under invested and has allowed the university to think differently about the operating models. This has already seen the university positively impact student performance due to ensuring every single pound that is generated is invested back into the university.

Working with the benchmarking team

Working with Tribal has been fab. The benchmarking team did all the work for us, we provided the data, they did a lot of interviews and one to ones, to help understand what the data was saying and to validate it. They also presented back to subgroups of staff. Again, this was another really good way of validating and making adjustments. I’ve found the Tribal team really, really easy to work with, they obviously know their stuff. I would say to other Chief Financial Officers that benchmarking is an absolute must. It’s been incredible in terms of helping to shape our plans and help us provide evidence to get support for those plans. It’s a no brainer, it’s something you should do, and on a regular basis.



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