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The survey, coordinated by the British Universities Finance Directors Group and the North Western Universities Purchasing Consortium, received 94 responses from English institutions for 2012-13, an increase of over 20 per cent on the previous year.

HEFCE thanks those involved for engaging with this process and providing valuable evidence of how English higher education delivers value for money in deploying its resources. The headline results are as follows.

  • Procurement efficiencies, achieved through arranging lower prices, improving the quality of the goods and services procured, and improving or streamlining processes to deliver savings, amounted to £153 million for 2012-13. The reported figure for 2011-12 was £132 million, albeit based on a smaller sample of institutions.
  • Following previous HEFCE investment in institutional e-marketplace systems through the Universities Modernisation Fund, 57 institutions reported £745 million in e-marketplace transactions for 2012-13, delivering nearly £35 million in efficiencies compared with a 2009-10 baseline.
  • Use of purchasing cards was reported by 87 institutions, with transactions totalling £356 million in 2012-13. This represented £16 million in efficiencies compared with a 2009-10 baseline.
  • Institutions reported spending a total of over £800 million through purchasing consortia in 2012-13, resulting in £46 million in efficiencies. (This understates the true level of the efficiencies achieved in this area, as the survey did not capture all institutions belonging to these consortia.)
  • The survey also collected data on local collaborative purchasing arrangements for the first time. Expenditure of over £295 million was reported in this category for 2012-13.

HEFCE will now discuss the findings with stakeholders in the higher education sector to help disseminate best practice. The results will inform the next round of the survey, which will be launched in October 2014 and will collect data for 2013-14. HEFCE encourages all institutions to participate.