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The Higher Education Academy (HEA) was established in 2003 to help institutions, discipline groups and all staff provide the best possible learning experience for their students. It is currently primarily funded by the four UK funding bodies, with growing income from other sources including subscriptions from higher education institutions.

In May 2013 the funding bodies commissioned independent consultants to evaluate whether the HEA is effectively achieving the general priorities set by the funding bodies and its wider aims and objectives.  The review was also asked to consider whether the HEA is providing the funders and the sector with value for money. 

The research found that the HEA had made significant progress since the previous evaluation commissioned in 2007 and that it:

  • provides services, knowledge and expertise that are important to the sector
  • has, at both the level of the Board and the Executive Team, a clear vision and a grounded appreciation of the priorities it must pursue if it is to continue to improve the value it offers the sector, funders and other stakeholders
  • is an increasingly efficient and effective organisation that has secured, especially in the last three years, improved levels of confidence from the wide range of different stakeholders and communities it exists to serve
  • has devised and, for the most part, successfully implemented a new and more resilient business model.

The research also found a number of areas requiring further development. For example, the HEA:

  • has not established a clear approach to demonstrating value for money and the impact of its work to the sector
  • has to better communicate, to institutional leaders, the impact and value of its work with their institutions
  • needs to fine-tune its organisational model to ensure greater agility in response to institutional requirements and an evolving environment
  • needs to narrow its focus onto fewer key strategic priorities and be more effective in evidencing the outcomes it delivers for individual institutions.

The HEA had identified many of the same findings through its own business analysis and has already begun addressing the evaluation findings through its strategy and plans.  It will report to the funding bodies how it has taken account of the issues raised in the report.