The UK government is calling for “quantifiable progress” towards collaborative procurement across higher education institutions this year.

The annual grant letter to the Higher Education Funding Council for England from business secretary Vince Cable and universities minister David Willetts said: “There is also a continued requirement for those in receipt of public funding to operate efficiently and deliver value for money.

“We expect to see quantifiable progress against the Diamond recommendations, particularly improvements in collective procurement, benchmarking, energy use and asset utilisation in the sector.”

The Diamond recommendations, published in September 2011, set a minimum target of 30 per cent of non-pay spend to be addressed through collaborative procurement arrangements by September 2016.

According to Andy Davies, director of the London Universities Purchasing Consortium (LUPC) – one of the consortia supporting collaborative procurement – the scale will present a challenge. “That the government have flagged this up [collective procurement] speaks volumes about how important it views it and shows it is mindful of the progress that needs to be made,” he told SM. “It’s going to require a considerable amount of hard work, given there are 133 HE institutions in the UK.”

Procurement UK, which was established by Universities UK following the Diamond report, is due to meet for the first time next week and will discuss with LUPC what progress has been made so far.

According to LUPC’s annual review, Marcus McDonald, director of finance and estates at the Royal College of Music, said the institution has increased its collaborative spend from less than 2 per cent in 2009 to more than 20 per cent in 2012.
Other regional consortia working on collaborative procurement in the sector include the Higher Education Purchasing Consortium Wales, North Eastern Universities Purchasing Consortium, North Western Universities Purchasing Consortium and Southern Universities Purchasing Consortium.

Anna Reynolds, Supply Management

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