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Shared Services 

Shared services have long been high on the Government’s agenda. The higher education sector has a number of long established shared services but it is recognised, through publications such as the Universities UK report Efficiency and effectiveness in Higher Education and the McClelland report to the Scottish Government, that there are further opportunities for universities and colleges to share. The Scottish IT Directors organisation HEIDS has also undertaken a feasibility study into the greater adoption of IT shared services in Scotland. The report of the study is now available on the HEIDS website.

HEFCE has sought to seed the development of shared services through the commissioning of a number of feasibility studies and latterly through the Universities Modernisation Fund. Two of the feasibility studies in the IT area have reached fruition. The shared out of hours student IT support service based at Northumbria University has now evolved into a full service and the shared network security service piloted by the East Midlands MAN is now being delivered as part of the Janet provision.

One of the barriers to the adoption of shared services has beenthe fact that such services have attracted VAT. HM Treasury have recognised this and the Chancellor announced an exemption from VAT on non-profit making shared services in Autumn 2011. The exemption requires the sharing parties to form a cost sharing group – a separate legal entity formed to supply the partners in the group with the services they are sharing. UCISA is aware of a number of cost sharing groups being formed and is looking to commission case studies on those groups so that others may learn from their experience. HEFCE published guidance on the exemption in September 2013. The guidance sets the context of the cost sharing exemption for HE. It will help existing providers of services to understand the issues which must be addressed to take advantage of the exemption, while identifying areas of service which are not liable to VAT and therefore do not need to be delivered through CSGs. It also examines areas which are being clarified by the experience of groups currently establishing CSGs.

Reports and case studies on shared services

Study of early adopters of shared services and cloud computing (Jisc report, May 2011)
Blog post on the UniDesk shared service management system

Last update: 2 September 2013

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