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Shared services

We help the higher education sector to become more efficient by supporting shared services in various ways. This page lists some of the things we do. 

Value Added Tax (VAT) 

When universities and colleges shared services in the past, these activities could attract Value Added Tax (VAT). Paying this tax often had the effect of eliminating the cost-savings of sharing the services. 

We have worked with the sector and the British Universities Finance Directors' Group (BUFDG) to encourage the Government to implement the EU cost-sharing exemption. This was introduced in the Finance Act 2012 and allows organisations called 'cost-sharing groups' to supply VAT-exempt services to member organisations. 

Guidance on the application of the provisions of the new legislation to higher education has been drafted in consultation with the sector and in collaboration with the British Universities Finance Directors' Group (BUFDG) and Universities UK. This guidance will be regularly reviewed and updated with illustrative examples. 

In brief

Universities and colleges co-operate in many areas to achieve significant savings and improvements in performance by sharing services.

Current examples of this co-operation include UCAS, the Joint Academic Network (JANET), and the Higher Education Statistics Agency. 

The future of shared services

Guidance on cost-sharing

HEFCE’s Head of Procurement, Steve Butcher, describes the new guidance in an Efficiency Exchange webcast.

Developing Good practice

Five projects have been set up to provide good practice on the use of cost sharing groups. These are: 

HE shared legal services  (Award: £48,0000)

HE Shared Legal is a subscription-based legal guidance and support service for UK higher education institutions. It provides ad hoc and generic legal guidance, and assists with the selection, engagement and instruction of external legal law firms.  

HEFCE funding will be used to obtain specialist legal, taxation and accounting advice on technical issues. This involves: 

  • monitoring of VAT-able activity
  • charging of costs
  • links with HMRC
  • drafting of membership agreements
  • creation of governance arrangements.  

Development of a cost-benefit-analysis model (Award £105,000)

FX Plus is the shared services delivery partner of Falmouth University and the University of Exeter and is jointly owned by the two institutions.

This project will develop a cost-benefit-analysis model, based on FX Plus experience. It will cover a range of shared-service and partnership arrangements, helping institutions to maximise the benefits of sharing services.  

Asset sharing (Award £38,000)

The N8 universities – a collaboration of the eight most research-intensive institutions in the north of England - are developing policy and practice to support equipment sharing.  

In particular they are developing a cost-sharing-group model and will implement it using the collaboration’s high-performance computing facility as an exemplar. 

Facilities management (Award £37,500)

The University of London is establishing a cost-sharing group to deliver facilities management, which will provide a better and more consistent service for students at London institutions. 

The proposal builds on existing expertise and will demonstrate what can be achieved by a mature shared service that is extending its coverage in preference to outsourcing.  

IT shared service across education providers (Award £30,000)

University of Portsmouth will provide IT services to educational institutions in and around Portsmouth with partners from the further education and schools sectors. 

This will deliver savings to partners, but also support the university’s broader strategy for widening participation in a locality with historically low participation rates in higher education.

Page last updated 23 January 2015