Next year, U of T will join a consortium of 46 universities that use UniForum, a data analysis tool that measures administrative expenditures and provides suggestions to boost efficiency. The data collected by UniForum will consequently inform U of T’s annual budget. UniForum partner institutions then share their management strategies with other universities at an annual conference.

At the March 18 Business Board meeting, Vice-President Operations and Real Estate Partnerships Scott Mabury said, “We haven’t ever studied ourself very well and we believe [UniForum] will allow us to make better decisions.”

How does UniForum work?

UniForum partner institutions engage in an annual cycle of activities that consist of three phases: data collection, briefings and workshops, and collaborative studies.

Using UniForum tools, universities collect and self-report information on resource capacity and employee allocation in over 150 key activities across 14 different functional areas. Employee surveys are a core component of the data collection system.

After submitting this data, universities meet to debrief each other on their respective results. Cubane Consulting, the company that provides the UniForum service, subsequently provides university-specific briefings to each partner.

As a final step, universities meet at an annual conference to present their insights and compare data. This process aims to allow universities to assess their relative research efficiency and provide direction for strategic decision-making when implementing long-term plans.

Participant institutions share their administrative activity data in order to form a pool of information. This collaborative approach ensures that local information from different schools can be used as a benchmark for each institution, creating a wide range of solution paths to minimize costs and maximize efficiency.

Mabury described the program as a “benchmarking exercise” that will be increasingly valuable as more universities partner with UniForum.

Why is U of T using UniForum?

Mabury said that UniForum is a useful tool in determining how U of T allocates its staff resources and expenditures. “We don’t know how much of [our resources are] duplicated, we don’t know how much of that is transactional versus more strategic kinds of activities… We don’t know ourselves very well.”

Mabury added that in the 12 years that UniForum has been active, no partner universities have stopped using it. Mabury and Vice-President Human Resources & Equity Kelly Hannah-Moffat are the co-executive sponsors of the program at U of T.

UniForum has 20 partner universities in Australia, 18 in the United Kingdom, five in Canada, and three in New Zealand. The Canadian member institutions are York University, the University of British Columbia, McMaster University, U of T,  and the University of Alberta. The latter two universities will both begin using UniForum in 2019. Other notable universities using UniForum include the London School of Economics, the University of Cambridge, the University of Oxford, and the University of Melbourne.

Cubane Consulting is an Australian consulting company with offices in North Sydney, London, and Toronto.

— With files from Michael Teoh

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