You are:

Research and Publication Banner

Shared Services in the Public Sector and Higher Education

Shared Services in the Public Sector

More recently, the shared services approach has become common in the public sector and services are increasingly being shared not just between departments but across different organisations (for example different local authorities sharing payroll or waste services). A survey in 2011 found that 89% of English local authority organisations now share back office functions, front line services or a combination of the two with other local authorities or public bodies. Where services are shared between public sector organisations, there are a number of options in terms of how the shared services can be delivered, and who by. For example, organisations could simply collaborate to share parts of a particular service such as procurement; one of the organisations could take on responsibility for the services of another; services could be jointly managed between organisations; or a new and separate organisation could be created to take full responsibility for the delivery of services.

Implementation and leadership of shared services in the public sector brings a number of challenges. It is noted in particular that major saving are unlikely in the first year or so, process and service re-design are essential in the new service to gain the most from the new approach and that ’winning the hearts and minds of those directly affected’ is a key concern and challenge. Strong leadership and management are instrumental in helping move successfully to a shared services model.

Shared Services in Higher Education

There are already a number of examples of shared services operating across higher education in the UK. Large scale examples include the shared admissions facility (the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service), the JANET education and research services network, the M25 Consortium of Academic Libraries and there are additional examples of regional sharing of (non-strategic) services between institutions. Examples of shared services in higher education usually fit into one of two categories. Firstly, those aiming to improve efficiency (following on from the Gershon Review and Cabinet Office papers) which focus on economies of scale and purchasing power. Secondly, those which aim to address the ‘critical mass’ issue - universities often cannot afford a large team in certain very specialist areas but a small team faces challenges if one of the few individuals is absent or the institution needs a wide breadth of expertise (ie for internal auditing, experts in specific ICT systems, experts in certain HR procedures).

The benefits of sharing specific services between institutions in the UK, or between institutions and private sector organisations, are the subject of ongoing debate as the sector faces increasing costs and growing expectations from students – alongside sharp cuts in public funding. A KPMG report commissioned by Hefce (2006) predicted that costs in public sector organisations could be reduced by 20-30% by adopting shared services models. A 2008 study by JISC found that between a quarter and a third of higher education institutions had at least one shared service already in place – but that these were generally small in scale, in non-critical areas and mostly between institutions located in the same region. Many are suggesting that institutions could go much further down the shared services route and that they could reap significant cost savings from sharing far more sensitive services like finance, human resources or student records.

There are recognised pitfalls to increasing the amount and scope of shared services in higher education. There exists widespread concern about sensitive information being stored outside the home institution; many perceive problems in relation to competition between institutions and loss of control; and the human resource implications are significant. The adoption of this model would also represent a significant culture change for many institutions. An additional perceived barrier to increased take up of shared services is the fact that higher education institutions cannot reclaim the tax they are required to pay on services bought through a shared services unit. There have been calls for tax reforms to be introduced to solve this issue – but as Cobb (forthcoming) argues, this issue is not as straightforward as it seems and in fact EU legislation does already exist and simply needs to be implemented in UK law. He also points out that VAT must be paid on non staff costs whether services are shared or not, and that pay increases in recent years have meant that staff in HE are now paid more than the broader UK economy. In many cases the VAT issue is arguably not as significant a barrier as many perceive.

For more information about the Knowledge Resouces contact:

Helen Goreham, Research Manager

For more information about the Knowledge Resouces contact:

Helen Goreham 
Research Manager
020 3468 4829

Main Menu

  1. Home
  2. Programmes
    1. Programmes
      1. Top Management Programme
      2. Global Leadership Programme
      3. Executive Leaders
        1. EL3: Dates and details
      4. Strategic Finance Programme
      5. Strategic Leadership Programme
        1. SLP3: Dates and details
      6. Preparing for Senior Strategic Leadership
      7. Leading Departments
      8. Introduction to Head of Department
      9. Transition to Leadership
      10. Women-only Programmes
        1. Aurora
          1. About Aurora
          2. Dates and Venues for 2016-2017
          3. Guidance for Institutions
          4. Aurora Champions
          5. Role Models
          6. Resources
          7. The Longitudinal Study
          8. Aurora Terms and Cancellations
          9. Demystifying Finance for Aurorans
          10. Aurora competition
        2. Leadership Matters
      11. Governor Development Programme
        1. Clerks and Secretaries Professional Development and Leadership Programme
          1. Cohort 2: Dates and details
        2. Self-Assessment Tool
        3. Student Leaders Campaign
      12. Introduction to Higher Education
      13. Professional Partnerships
        1. Future Professional Directors
          1. FLP 10 resources
          2. FPD 1 - Resources
        2. Leading Transformation in Learning and Teaching
        3. Solutions for Organisational Success
      14. Research Leadership Programmes
      15. Diversifying Leadership
      16. Vice-Chancellors/Principals
    2. In-House Programmes
      1. Change Academy
        1. Change Academy Case Studies
          1. Change Academy: University of Westminster
          2. Change Academy: Loughborough University
          3. Change Academy: York University, Toronto
        2. Change Academy FAQs
      2. Programmes for Head of Department
        1. Leading Departments
        2. Head of Department
        3. Introduction to Head of Department
      3. Research Team Leadership
      4. Leading Teaching Teams
      5. Essentials of Leading Change
      6. Building Strategic Capability
      7. Unlocking Potential Through Performance Management
      8. Cultural Intelligence
      9. Working with Others
        1. Case Study: University College Cork
    3. Conferences and Events
      1. Regional Events
      2. Network Events
      3. Scottish Events
      4. Welsh Events
      5. Outstanding Leadership & Management Team Award
      6. The Leadership Lecture
    4. Alumni
      1. LF Fellowship
        1. Becoming an LF Fellow
        2. LF Fellowship FAQ's
        3. LF Fellow Directory
      2. Projects
        1. Projects 2006/07
        2. Projects 2004/05
          1. Professor Uduak Archibong
          2. Professor Teresa Rees CBE AcSS
          3. Dr Peter McCaffrey
    5. MASHEIN
    6. The Prevent Agenda
    7. Programme Dates
  3. Consultancy
    1. Sector Wide Change
    2. Institutional Transformation
      1. Governor Development and Governance Reviews
      2. Support from a change advisor
      3. Change health check
      4. Personal change questionnaire
      5. Supporting internal change consultants
    3. Teams and Individuals
      1. Bespoke and Tailored Programmes
      2. Coaching
        1. Executive Coaching
        2. Team Coaching
        3. Career Coaching Options
        4. Coaching Programmes
      3. Unconscious Bias Workshops
    4. Organisational Development
      1. Working with Top Management Teams
      2. Evaluation and Impact
      3. Collaborations, Alliances and Mergers
      4. Strategic Marketing and Communications
      5. Leadership of the Student Experience
    5. International Consultancy
      1. Bespoke Programmes
      2. International Partnership and Network Programmes
      3. Previous events
    6. Case studies
    7. Frequently Asked Questions
  4. Research
    1. Publications
      1. Getting to Grips
      2. HELMs
        1. Leading higher education
        2. Motivating and developing leaders
        3. Leadership and work-life balance
        4. Governors' views of their institutions, leadership and governance
      3. Leadership Insights
      4. Management Development Resources
      5. Reports and Reviews
        1. Researching and Scoping a Higher Education and Civic Leadership Development Programme
      6. ENGAGE Past Editions
        1. ENGAGE 38 - summer 2015
          1. Editorial: Alison Johns
          2. Summer News
          3. Being on the Board
          4. Cross-sector partnerships: Essex LGBT Alliance
          5. Our alumni
          6. Starter for ten
          7. Projects - Research - Resources
          8. International
          9. Meet our Membership Advisory Group
          10. Take a look at our Leadership Development Programmes
          11. Download Engage38
        2. ENGAGE 37 - spring 2015
          1. Editorial: Alison Johns
          2. Spring News
          3. A baptism of fire
          4. Sustainable excellence: unlocking the potential of a leading global university
          5. Our alumni
          6. Starter for ten: Fiona Larg
          7. Projects - Research - Resources
          8. International
          9. Member spotlight
          10. Take a look at our Leadership Development Programmes
          11. Download Engage37
        3. ENGAGE 36 - autumn 2014
          1. Editorial: Alison Johns
          2. Autumn News
          3. Membership
          4. Mainstreaming equality and diversity
          5. The rise of the career PVC
          6. Our alumni
          7. Professor Pat Bailey
          8. Projects - Research - Resources
          9. Executive Leaders
          10. Leadership Development Programmes
          11. Download Engage36
        4. ENGAGE 35 - summer 2014
          1. Summer News
          2. The Singularity University
          3. Talent Development
          4. Our alumni: Liz Price
          5. Professor Cliff Allan
          6. Projects - Research - Resources
          7. Umeå University Dialogue
          8. History, Examination, Investigations and Treatment
          9. Leadership Development Programmes
          10. Download Engage35
        5. ENGAGE 34 - spring 2014
          1. Dr Mark Pegg
          2. Spring 2014 News
          3. An unorthodox career
          4. Leadership: New thinking for the next decade
          5. Our alumni: Professor Tom Inns
          6. Professor Amanda J. Broderick
          7. Projects - Research - Resources
          8. LF Consulting
          9. The China Study
          10. Staff update
          11. Download Engage34
        6. ENGAGE 33 - autumn 2013
          1. Leadership: the next ten years
          2. Project update
          3. Interview
          4. In Practice
          5. Development
          6. Starter for ten
          7. Research: Staffing Models and Institutional Flexibility
          8. Book Review
          9. Download Engage33
        7. ENGAGE 32 - summer 2013
          1. Change: the new norm
          2. Project update
          3. Interview
          4. In Practice
          5. Development
          6. What our research says:
          7. Leadership Development Programmes
          8. Download Engage32
        8. Engage Unlimited
        9. Engage 2 Book Review
    2. Published Research
      1. 2016 Research
        1. The Impact of Leadership and Leadership Development in Higher Education
        2. The Impact of Higher Education Leadership, Governance and Management Research - Full Report
        3. The Impact of Higher Education Leadership, Governance and Management Research - Summary
        4. Departmental Leadership of Teaching in Research-Intensive Environments
      2. 2015 Research
        1. The Case for Growing STEMM Research Capacity in Wales
        2. Developing and Sustaining Shared Leadership in Higher Education
        3. How can we make not break black and minority ethnic leaders in higher education?
        4. Religion in Britain: Challenges to Higher Education
        5. Gender and Higher Education Leadership
        6. In the wings and backstage: exploring the micropolitics of leadership in higher education
      3. 2014 Research
        1. Leading the Student Experience: Academic and Professional Services in Partnership
        2. Exploring Student Leadership
        3. The employability agenda and beyond: what are universities for?
        4. Out in Orbit: strategies and trajectories for higher education satellite campuses
        5. Leading interdisciplinary Research transforming the academic landscape
        6. Neo-collegiality: restoring academic engagement in the managerial university
        7. A Complexity Approach to Leadership Development: Developing Practical Judgement
        8. Performance Management in UK Higher Education Institutions: The need for a hybrid approach
        9. The experience of BME academics in higher education: aspirations in the face of inequality
        10. Towards the family friendly university?
        11. Governance in a changing environment: literature review
        12. Governance in a changing environment: thought piece
        13. The governance of private higher education providers in the UK
        14. Challenges for the leadership of transnational education in higher education: balancing risk and innovation
        15. Report from the: Programme for University Leaders in the Southern African Region (PULSAR)
        16. The Changing Role of the University Registrar: Challenges and Prospects in Southern African Higher Education Institutions
        17. Registrars and Senior Administrative Officers as Change Leaders in Southern African Universities
        18. Action Learning as a Tool for Change and Development: The Experience of Registrars and Senior Administrative Officers in Southern Africa
        19. Trends in Governance: Universities in the Southern, African Development, Community
        20. Leading academic talent to a successful future: interviews with leaders, managers and academics
        21. Leading academic talent to a successful future: an international perspective
      4. 2013 Research
        1. Leading change in assessment and feedback
        2. Leadership for a better student experience: What do senior executives need to know?
        3. Devolution and Higher Education: What next?
        4. Credit Risk? Reviving credit accumulation and transfer in UK higher education
        5. Leading interdisciplinarity: creating environments for success
        6. What do we know about: Collaborations and Partnerships in Higher Education
        7. Staffing Models and Institutional Flexibility
        8. Women and Higher Education Leadership: Absences and Aspirations
        9. Using International Recruitment Agents: Risks and Regulation?
        10. Losing our Chains?
        11. Internationalising the curriculum: Design, delivery and depth
        12. Horizon Scanning: what will higher education look like in 2020
        13. Leadership of Practice Disciplines in Universities: The case of nurses and teachers
        14. Humanities Research Leadership in Europe
      5. 2012 Research
        1. Collaborations and Mergers in HE: Lessons Learned and Future Prospects
        2. Leadership development within the UK higher education: its impact on organisational performance, and the role of evaluation
        3. The Role of Prestige in UK Universities: Vice-Chancellors' Perspectives
        4. What do we know about leadership in higher education?
        5. Academic Leadership: Changing Conceptions, Identities and Experiences in UK Higher Education
      6. 2011 Research
        1. Higher Education Collaborations: Implications for Leadership, Management and Governance
        2. Leadership and Management of International Partnerships
      7. 2010 Research
        1. Conversations and Collaborations: The Leadership of Collaborative Projects between Higher Education and the Arts and Cultural Sector
      8. 2009 Research
      9. 2008 Research
        1. Professional Managers in UK Higher Education: Preparing for Complex Futures
        2. Developing Collective Leadership in Higher Education
      10. 2007 Research
        1. Effective Leadership in Higher Education
      11. Research by Theme
        1. Evolving organisational forms
        2. Culture, change and organisational development
        3. Understanding leadership
        4. Developing leaders
        5. Identities, roles and careers
        6. Equality, diversity and inclusion
        7. Governance, academic and financial risk
        8. Global and cross-sector perspectives
        9. he-context-and-landscape
      12. Research Order Form
    3. Current Tenders
      1. Leadership in health higher education
    4. Commissioned Research
      1. The UK HE System
      2. The New HE Economy
      3. Collaboration and Partnership
      4. Governance
      5. Leadership in Practice
      6. Changing Roles, Structures and Careers
      7. Leadership Development
      8. Leading the Student Experience
      9. Leading Equality and Diversity
      10. Internationalisation
    5. Resources
      1. Diversity
        1. Strategy
          1. Diversity Strategy for 2007-2012
        2. Key Leadership and Diversity Projects
        3. Resources, Publications and Links
        4. Equality Legislation
        5. Diversity Advisory Group
        6. Diversity talks
      2. Organisational Development
        1. OD Mapping Project
      3. Research Outcomes
        1. The Self Assessment Toolkit
      4. Case Studies
      5. LGM Fund Outcomes
    6. Succession Management
      1. What is it?
        1. Definitions
        2. Visualising the definitions
        3. History of the Concept
        4. Succession in 2005
        5. Key Characteristics
      2. Why do it?
        1. Benefits - Case Studies
          1. BBC
          2. University of Kent
          3. Nottingham Trent University
          4. Imperial College London
          5. Newcastle University
          6. University of Leeds
        2. Focus Finder
          1. Interpreting the Results
          2. Focus Finder Revisited
      3. How it's done
        1. Resources
        2. Making the case
        3. Size and scope
        4. Roles, stakeholders and engagement
        5. Roles, stakeholders and engagement: examples
        6. Selection and assessment
        7. Selection and assessment: examples
        8. Development methods
      4. Case Studies
      5. Tools
    7. Small Development Projects
      1. Small Development Projects 2016
      2. Small Development Projects 2015
      3. Small Development Projects 2014
      4. Small Development Projects 2013
      5. Small Development Projects 2012
      6. Small Development Projects 2011
      7. Small Development Projects 2010
      8. Small Development Projects 2008-09
      9. Advice from Previous SDP Leaders
    8. ITF Projects
      1. ITF 2016 Phase 3 - Project details
        1. Funding for updating online information governance materials
        2. Leading Change Together: Managing cultural change across the HE workforce
        3. Enhancing the Evidencing of Benefits and Efficiencies across the HE Sector
      2. ITF 2014 Phase 2
      3. ITF 2012 Phase 1
      4. Case Studies
      5. What they say about the Innovation and Transformation Fund
    9. Knowledge Resources
      1. Mergers in Higher Education
        1. HE/FE Mergers - Literature
        2. Merger Evaluation Reports
        3. Higher Education Case Studies
        4. Legislation/Guidance
        5. News Articles
        6. Non HE Literature on Mergers
      2. Shared Services
        1. The Shared Services Approach
        2. Shared Services in the Public Sector and Higher Education
        3. The Transition to a Shared Services Model
        4. Bibliography
        5. The Shared Services Model
        6. Shared Services in the Public Sector
        7. Shared Services in Higher and Further Education
        8. Additional Leadership, Governance and Management Considerations in Shared Services Models
        9. UK Policy and Guidance Papers
        10. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland Resources
        11. Websites and Online Materials
    10. Post Event Resources
      1. Conferences and Events
        1. Innovation and Transformation in HE Unlocking Learning
        2. Internationalisation
        3. Research Leadership
        4. Future Proofing Higher Education
        5. Developing higher education: strategies for a new era
        6. Online and open-access learning in higher education: MOOCs, new pedagogies and business models
        7. Imagine
        8. MOOCs: What have we learned, emerging themes and what next
      2. Governor Development Programme Resources
      3. Developing Academic Leaders
    11. Changing the Learning Landscape
      1. Impact
        1. Patsy's Perspective:
      2. Partners
  5. Governance
    1. Governors
      1. Becoming a governor
      2. What is governance?
      3. Governor responsibilities
        1. Academic governance and quality
        2. Compliance and regulation
        3. Commercial operations
        4. International students and developments
        5. Risk management
        6. Students
        7. Strategic plans
        8. Monitoring performance
    2. Governing bodies
      1. Audit Committee
      2. Nominations committee
      3. Remuneration
      4. Employment
      5. Finance
      6. Estates
    3. Operating context
    4. Resource bank
      1. Features
      2. Governance News
      3. Previous news alerts
        1. Alternative providers and student debt in the US: could it happen in the UK?
        2. Is institutional autonomy under threat?
        3. Managing the board
        4. OECD Report suggests some higher education students lack basic skills
        5. Five issues for HEI governing bodies
        6. Whistleblowing and gagging clauses
        7. The failure of HBOS
        8. Financial forecasts for English HEIs
        9. Governance changes proposed in the HE Green paper
        10. FEHE SORP 2015 Donations & Endowments
        11. Board diversity - the Davis Review
        12. Information systems and cyber security
        13. Does a change in leadership lead to a change in strategy?
        14. FIFA and corporate governance
        15. Volkswagen
        16. Sustainability
        17. Review of governance at Plymouth University
        18. Equality and diversity and governing bodies
        19. A Changing Agenda
        20. Role and effectiveness of audit committees
        21. Governance of Scottish Higher Education Institutions: Consulative Paper on HE Bill
        22. Governance issues at Tesco
        23. Student visas
        24. Governance at the Co-op
        25. HE funding - IFS report
        26. Removal of student number control
        27. Governance issues in the private sector
        28. Governance at the BBC
        29. Reforms to how higher education in England is regulated
        30. HBOS & London Met: case studies in governance
        31. New IPPR report on HE
        32. Moocs are coming
        33. Increasing diversity
      4. Getting-to-grips
        1. Getting to Grips with Finance
      5. Useful websites
      6. Codes of governance
        1. CUC Code of Governance
        2. UK Corporate Governance Code
      7. New research on governance in higher education
      8. Book reviews
      9. HE facts
      10. Kids Company
        1. The collapse of Kids Company
        2. NAO Investigation into Kids Company
        3. The need for good governance
    5. Governance Briefing Notes
    6. Governor Dialogues
  6. Membership
    1. Membership benefits and services
      1. Membership logos
        1. Download the membership logos
      2. Membership advisory group
    2. How to join
    3. National and regional contacts
      1. Cindy Vallance
      2. Gary Reed
      3. Jean Chandler
      4. Judy Harris
      5. Lawrie Phipps
      6. Maeve Lankford
      7. Meriel Box
      8. Rebecca Bull
    4. Members' free consultancy day
    5. Management Development Resources
      1. Download MDR1: Managing Effective Performance
      2. Download MDR2: Managing Change in HE
      3. Download MDR3: Emotional Intelligence, Personal Impact and Personal Effectiveness
      4. Download MDR4: Lean Management: Doing more with less
      5. Download MDR5: The Current HE Context: Drivers for change
      6. Download MDR6: Commercial Skills for Academics and Researchers
      7. MDR7: Caught in the Middle
        1. MDR7 Contents
        2. Download MDR7: Caught in the Middle
      8. Download MDR8: Working with Academic Motivation and Prestige
    6. Knowledge Bank
      1. What's available
    7. Membership community
      1. Members' Directory
    8. MASHEIN
      1. MASHEIN Members
    9. Get in touch

We are a membership organisation of and for a sector that has some of the brightest minds in the UK.


Our members are key to our strategy and form a community of higher education institutions with a clear commitment to and experience of developing leadership, governance and management capabilities at all levels. Academic and professional services staff from member institutions contribute to our programmes, projects and research and advise on benefits and services.


Find out more about Membership


  • Membership benefits

    • 25% discount on our open and in-house programmes and consultancy
    • a free consultancy day
    • exclusive access to research publications, development resources and funding opportunities
    • free regional events
    • funding for Staff Development Forum and MASHEIN activity
    • members’ mailing lists, newsletters and magazine
    • participation in our development networks


  • How to join

    • Membership is open to all higher education providers and related sector organisations on an annual or three-yearly subscription basis.
    • We have 154 members with around a third taking advantage of the 10% discount offered by three-year subscriptions.


  • Membership benefits

    • Research and innovation: Access to our latest, highly-valued research, Leadership Insights, Getting to Grips series and practical development project resources.
    • More…

    • Management Development Resources: Flexible workshop materials on key leadership and management development topics, for you to deliver in-house to suit your own contexts NEW: ‘Caught in the Middle’. 
    • More…

    • The Knowledge Bank: Save time with these extensive multi-media training resources for HR, staff development and OD professionals, covering key leadership and management theory and practice.
    • More…

  • Get in touch

    Meet the membership team, your national and regional contacts in the UK and Ireland, and LF networks.

Pages in this section

You are:

Text size: A A A Print page:

Leadership Foundation for Higher Education
Peer House, 8-14 Verulam Street
London WC1X 8LZ

T: 020 3468 4810     F: 020 3468 4811

Use of Cookies

This website uses cookies. We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.  Find out more here.