How long does it take?

A formal tendering process takes time. Timescales vary slightly depending on which process you choose but a relatively straightforward process will take at least six months from the time you have your requirements defined and all of the necessary documentation prepared.

It is more realistic to assume that a process involving demonstrations, testing, reference site visits etc. is likely to take 10-12 months.

This diagram is adapted from one originally produced by University College London.

London Business School realised that getting this right takes time. They undertook detailed planning for the procurement phase and split implementation into three separate phases in order to achieve the full range of desired benefits.

An outline of the London Business School project plan is given below.

Indicative Project Plan
Task Name Estimate timescales Resource Names
Learning Hub Project - Phase 1
Project Approval Document (PAD) 1 approved Currently unknown but this will trigger Project Initiation Executive
Stakeholder Engagement Throughout the project Project team
Initiation 2-3 months
Project Initiation Document (PID) Production Project Manager
PID and Design Stage Plan approved Project Board
Detailed requirements developed Business Analyst
Detailed requirements signed off Executive
Design 3-5 months
Production of request for proposal (RFP) Business Analyst
Procurement activities Procurement team
Product selection Project team
Contract review and negotiation Legal team
Implementation Stage Plan & Budget (PAD 2) approved Project Board, Accounts
Implementation 10-12 months
Supplier(s) contract signed TBC
Build Supplier(s) IT
Testing Users
Training Users, IT Traning team
Live service readiness
Launch 15-20 months from (PAD) 1 approval
Transition 1-2 months
Delivery Acceptance
Operational Review
Benefits Realisation
Review of Phase 1 (including Lessons Learned)
Phase 2 Initiation, Design and Implementation TBC following review of Phase 1
Phase 3 Initiation, Design and Implementation TBC following review of Phase 1 & 2
Indicative project plan at the London Business School.

Will the same rules apply in future?

This Toolkit was published in the Spring of 2019 at a time when the sector, and indeed the UK as a whole, was facing considerable uncertainties about future direction in many areas. It is possible the regulations will change in future and there are various considerations to think about.

Universities and colleges are subject to stringent procurement regulations because they are considered to be 'bodies governed by public law' which generally means bodies where 50% of funding comes from public sources. Since the introduction of tuition fees repayable by students there has been some uncertainty about how this income should be treated in strictly legal terms. Many universities also have an increasing proportion of their income derived from private research funds, partnerships with industry, donations and endowments, investments etc.

It appears likely that the majority of higher education institutions will continue to be treated under the same rules as public contracts although a number may choose to challenge this (the University of Cambridge did so some time ago). Any new rules are likely to be based on the existing regulations and those hoping for greater freedom may be well advised to 'be careful what you wish for'.

The regulations as they stand are detailed and prescriptive and the corollary of this is that they offer clarity and a sound legal foundation for the award of contracts. Institutions free to operate outside this process still need stringent procurement guidelines if they are not to expose themselves to considerable risk.

Institutions that have over 50% of their income from private sources in one year might find this changes during the duration of the contract. The higher education sector is very keen to remain part of many EU initiatives and for this reason may find itself having to operate in accordance with the relevant legislation in practice.

Of the contributors to this Toolkit, only London Business School was not bound by EU regulations in selecting a new VLE yet they followed a process very similar to the other institutions.

The Higher Education Procurement Association (HEPA) is the professional body promoting good procurement practice in the sector and works closely with the British Universities Finance Directors Group (BUFDG). These organisations will have any information on changes in procurement regulations.