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.

Achieving stability in the UK higher education sector following COVID-19

10 April 2020
A proposal to government from Universities UK for a balanced package of measures to maximise universities’ contribution to the economy and communities following COVID-19.

A guide to presenting institutional financial information to students

19 October 2019
A guide to help and support universities in explaining to students where their money comes from, how they spend it and how this adds value to the student experience.

Progress update on Bell Review recommendation on new higher education sector agency

19 May 2017
Statement from Universities UK, GuildHE, the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU), the Higher Education Academy (HEA), and the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education (LFHE) on the implementation of the recommendations of the Bell Review.

Report of the review group on UK higher education sector agencies

31 January 2017
The group believes that the framework of recommendations set out in this report will create a more robust and effective sector agency landscape which meets the needs of its users.

Report cover

Open data in higher education: an introductory guide

4 February 2016
A guide for professionals working in universities who want a better understanding of the issues using open data in their institutions.

Rating revaluation 2017

6 October 2015
We support the UUK-GuildHE Rating Revaluation Group, which coordinates evidence gathering and negotiations to influence the tax liabilities that universities face on their estates.

Report page

Why invest in universities?

25 June 2015
Universities are essential for the UK's modern knowledge economy. The UK has a university sector that many other countries aspire to emulate.

Report cover

Efficiency, effectiveness and value for money

26 February 2015
Universities are committed to operating efficiently and offering value for money to students and other investors, especially in the face of pressures on all aspects of government spending.

Report page

Working for a smarter, stronger sector

12 November 2013
Setting out the progress made in each of the cross-cutting thematic areas identified in our 2011 report, 'Efficiency and effectiveness in higher education', the report of the UUK Efficiency and Modernisation Task Group.

Report cover

Efficiency and effectiveness in higher education: a report by the Universities UK Efficiency and Modernisation Task Group

15 September 2011
Effectiveness, efficiency and value for money are central concerns for the higher education sector.


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