The UniForum program is an international benchmarking program run by Cubane Consulting, and jointly sponsored by the Vice-President Operations & Real Estate Partnerships and the Vice-President Human Resources & Equity. It includes activity and cost data about how professional, operational, and technical staff support teaching and research. We also collect activity and cost data from suppliers and contractors. We combine this with data from the biennial Service Effectiveness Survey to get a full picture of the support provided to teaching and research activity at U of T.
Do other universities participate in UniForum?
The UniForum program has been adopted by 36 post-secondary institutions worldwide, including 10 in Canada, 15 in the United Kingdom and Europe, and 11 in Australia and New Zealand. New universities continue to join the program. More information on participating institutions can be found on the Cubane website.
Why does U of T want to participate in the UniForum program?
U of T’s strategic mission requires us to provide well-resourced, effective and efficient support to our core academic activities. Our participation in the UniForum program will inform our institutional understanding of how our administrative resources and services support our teaching and research. This data will form part of a suite of inputs that will inform how the University improves its overall administrative services.
Participating in this program will not only give us information about the current distribution of support activity, it will also provide us with the opportunity to benchmark our activities against other universities globally. However, it cannot, on its own, tell us what we should do to become more effective.
How will departments and units be involved in this program?
All administrative directors and department managers will be involved at the outset of this program. They will be the primary contacts for their individual areas. Primary contacts will in turn nominate the managers – the respondents – who will be responsible for the collection of data in the various areas of their unit.
Primary contacts will be invited to work with the project team to ensure the effectiveness and efficiency of the data collection process. They will be responsible for reviewing HR payroll lists and confirming accuracy of data collected for their area.
During the collection period, respondents will be required to allocate staff time to activities (activity codes) for the previous financial year using a secure web-based data collection tool.
Training will be provided for all roles.
What are the activity codes?
The activity codes have been developed over many years of recording the activity of support staff in member institutions in Canada, the UK, Australia and New Zealand. The 160+ activities in the tool are categorized under 14 functions:
- Governance & Institutional Management
- Human Resources
- Information Technology
- Facilities Management
- Student Support and Services
- External Engagement
- Teaching Administration
- Teaching Design, Development & Delivery
- Research Administration
- Research Facilities and Support
- General Administration
- Complementary Activities (typically activities not common to all member institutions, such as sports programming, student residences, power generation plants, etc.)
It is important that we use globally standardized categories to maintain consistency of the data for the later benchmarking stage.
What will we learn from participating in the UniForum program?
We will be able to gain a much more accurate understanding of where U of T’s individual activities take place. We will be able to see how centralized or devolved activities are, and where additional processing occurs. This provides information to determine where we need to bring about improvements, perhaps by changing processes to reduce bureaucracy or to reduce the number of times we exchange information to get a job done.
How long will the full program take?
UniForum is a renewable four-year program that relies on annual data collection. U of T launched Year 1 of UniForum in spring 2019.
How have other universities used the UniForum data?
The program was first run in the UK in 2015 and in Canada in 2017. However, it has been running for a decade in Australia and New Zealand, where universities use the resulting information in different ways depending on their individual circumstances and objectives. Some recent outcomes have included programs for the continuous improvement of service delivery; business case support for investment in systems; and upgrading the skills of service delivery teams.
How is this linked to the Service Effectiveness Survey which took place in fall 2018?
The Service & Activity Data Collection and the Service Effectiveness Survey (SES) are two distinct parts of the UniForum program. The data collection shows how teaching and research are supported, whilst the SES helps us understand how services are performing. Together, these pieces give us a full picture of the services that support teaching and research at U of T.
Will the results be shared?
As part of their data validation role, primary contacts and function reviewers will have access to data for their areas after respondents have submitted their coding. With respect to university-wide and cross-university results, we are committed to a transparent process and will be working with service leaders and departmental managers to ensure we share as much as possible through appropriate channels.
Will our data be visible to other institutions?
No. U of T and other participating institutions have signed a confidentiality agreement, ensuring that identifying data is not shared between institutions. All data and related benchmarking will be kept strictly confidential. While our benchmarking data will place us amongst the data from other institutions, it will be anonymized.
Are librarians included or excluded from this exercise?
Librarians are included in the UniForum data collection in accordance with the global framework.
How does UniForum relate to my job description?
UniForum is a completely separate initiative that looks not at job descriptions, but at the major activities and projects that were undertaken and/or completed during the last fiscal year.
For U of T employees completing in this year collection, please go here for more information and resources.