Efficiency and value for money

​Universities across the UK are committed to delivering value for money for students, for government and for the wider public.​

student with backpack looking up at a clear sky

Universities are continually working hard to improve all aspects of their institutions by:

  • Driving efficiency: ensuring that a focus on efficiency and value for money is at the heart of development strategies, at all levels of university operation
  • Embracing innovation: looking for and taking advantage of cultural and technological advances, which offer new opportunities to deliver greater value and improve effectiveness
  • Working smarter: seeking opportunities to collaborate and partner with other universities and public, charity and private sector organisations to maximise value from shared equipment, estates and services
  • Learning from each other: supporting activities to discover and spread examples of good practice and lessons learned, and to promote the sector's achievements

All this means that our universities can remain at the top in what is a global competition. It enables them to invest in the very best people, world-class facilities, cutting-edge technology, and in providing the best possible experience to their students during their time at university.​

Our priorities for efficiency, effectiveness and value for money

  • To evidence the success of universities in delivering value for money to students, government and wider society

  • To support universities to work more efficiently and to deliver value for money by identifying and sharing best practice

  • To set a challenging agenda for universities to ensure that they continue to operate as efficiently and effectively as possible ​

Key projects and activities

  • Evidencing efficiency and value for money

  • Efficiency and Modernisation Task Group

  • Efficiency Exchange

  • Procurement UK

  • Asset-sharing and utilisation

Evidencing efficiency and value for money

We recognise that our world-class university system is underpinned by significant public investment – and, increasingly, investment by students. As such, it is important to ensure that public funding and graduate contributions are used as effectively as possible.

Therefore, in collaboration with other sector and government agencies, we work  with universities to help them demonstrate that efficiency, effectiveness and value for money is at the heart of how they operate.​

Over the next spending review period universities will:

  • continue to implement a comprehensive programme of activities to enhance efficiency, effectiveness and value for money
  • develop and implement a robust and coherent reporting and accountability framework to evidence efficiency and productivity gains across teaching, research and knowledge exchange, and in core operational areas
  • produce an annual progress report to the Treasury and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills

Efficiency and Modernisation Task Group

The Efficiency and Modernisation Task Group was set up by Universities UK in September 2010 to identify ways in which institutions could work more efficiently. Led by Professor Sir Ian Diamond, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Aberdeen, the group has produced a series of reports which demonstrate the higher education sector's continued commitment to ensuring value for money.

Each report makes recommendations for next steps, initiating a number of ongoing sector-led activities and services, and has been supported by a series of events and conferences. 

Efficiency Exchange

Efficiency Exchange is a platform provided by Universities UK and Jisc for discovering and sharing knowledge about efficiency and effectiveness in higher education. It shares information sourced from a network of contributors across the higher education sector. ​

Keep up to date at www.efficiencyexchange.ac.uk. ​

Procurement UK

Procurement UK brings together procurement experts from across the higher education, public and private sectors.

The group is chaired by Professor Nick Petford, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Northampton, and is coordinated by Universities UK. It sets the strategic direction for higher education procurement across the UK and monitors and reports progress – most notably, significant progress against a target of 30% collaborative purchasing. ​

More information is available on the Efficiency Exchange procurement pages.​

Asset-sharing and utilisation

Universities need access to specialised equipment, facilities and people to support cutting-edge research, along with core, day-to-day assets such as lecture halls and computing centres.

Sharing these assets maximises the benefits that can be realised from public investment in science and research. These benefits go beyond achieving value for money through maximising shared use, important though that is. Asset sharing also fosters multi-disciplinary collaboration, thereby improving the quality of UK science and research as well as its efficiency.

Building on our 2015 Efficiency, effectiveness and value for money report, we are working with partners to support greater levels of asset-sharing and utilisation across the sector, by focusing on four areas:

  • Culture and academic practice

  • Policy frameworks and incentives

  • Evidencing, accountability and impact

  • Infrastructure and support mechanisms​


We are partners in USTREAM (Universities for Strategic, Efficient and Autonomous Management), a project focused on promoting efficiencies in higher education systems across Europe. The project is coordinated by the European University Association and includes the Irish Universities Association and the Central European University.​

The project will run for three years from January 2016. It presents an opportunity for Universities UK to promote and share the experience and success of the UK higher education sector's efficiency agenda, and to learn from the experience of our European counterparts.

Report page

Adapting business models in a changing environment

7 September 2010
This report is published as part of the second strand of Universities UK’s From Recession to Recovery project, supported by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE).

Report page

The future is more than just tomorrow: Higher education, the economy and the longer term

7 September 2010
Higher education, the economy and the longer term is published as part of the second strand of Universities UK’s From Recession to Recovery project, supported by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE).

Report page

Financial sustainability and efficiency in full economic costing of research in UK higher education institutions

3 August 2010
This report considers the financial sustainability of research undertaken in universities and other institutions of higher education in the United Kingdom.

Universities planning guidance

19 May 2008
In preparing this guidance, our focus has been to achieve a strategic document that can assist universities to engage with local planning authorities and vice versa.


a student against a background of stripes

Presenting university income and spending to students

21 October 2019
David Phoenix on the importance of universities presenting their financial information to students.

Universities must help secure a sustainable future for our planet

4 April 2019
The University of Edinburgh's Dave Gorman on the steps his institution is taking to reduce carbon emissions and make a sustainable and socially responsible contribution to the world.


Universities determined to review and prove value of degrees

16 November 2020
​Universities in England are developing a charter to help ensure they take a consistent and transparent approach to identifying and improving potentially low value or low quality courses.

Package of measures proposed to enable universities to play a critical role in rebuilding the nation

10 April 2020
The Government and the higher education sector must jointly take action to ensure universities across all four nations of the UK are able to play a central role in the recovery of the economy and communities following the COVID-19 pandemic.

The team