Findings from our 2017 benchmarking exercise for university management

Findings from our 2017 benchmarking exercise for university management

Published on 20 October 2017

Today we are happy to share some of the emerging trends coming out of this year’s ACU Measures exercise, providing insights into the changing landscape of university management in the Commonwealth.

ACU Measures is our annual online benchmarking exercise which helps universities to compare and contrast their practices and policies with their peers, supporting senior university management in decision-making and strategic planning. It covers four key areas of university management, including salaries and benefits, research management, gender, and institutional profile. Data on salaries stretches back to 2004, while data in the other three areas stretches back to 2014. Read more about ACU Measures here

The 2017 exercise includes data from 155 institutions across 28 countries – representing over 30% of ACU membership – with a particular increase in participation in the Gender and Salaries and benefits surveys, up by 34% and 11% on last year respectively.

Findings from this year’s data

Below is a selection of findings from across our membership, showcasing the varied profiles of our member institutions.

  • Public funding – both domestic and international (46%) and student fees (41%) represent the highest proportion of institutional income across participating institutions (Figure 1)

  • Australasian institutions receive a higher proportion of their income from international students compared with other regions, and also have the highest average proportion of international students, at around a fifth of the total student body (Figure 2).

  • European institutions have the highest average proportion of female executive heads (31%) compared with other regions, whereas African institutions have the lowest proportion at 7.2%

  • Female staff across the Commonwealth were more likely to be librarians and heads of HR and PR, whereas male staff were more likely to be heads of IT and Research Management and registrars (Figure 3).

  • Australasian institutions have the highest average (median) of academic staff holding a PhD degree (79%) (Figure 4).

  • Australasian institutions have the highest average proportion of non-permanent academic staff (48%). This category includes academic staff who are employed on a casual, contract, temporary, atypical or per-course basis (Figure 5).

  • The largest gap between female and male academic salaries is found at the professorial job level in African institutions, where female Professors’ average (mean) salary is 92% of the male salary.

  • The most common type of pension scheme remains ‘final salary’; however, there has been an increase in institutions providing defined contribution schemes/hybrid schemes only to new staff.

To benchmark on areas of particular interest to your institution, please visit

Need help benchmarking your data on our self-service platform? Access our on-demand webinar here, or read our dedicated guide here.

Can my institution take part?

All member institutions can enjoy this service free of charge. Data is collected online every year between February and May, and is available for benchmarking year-round using the ACU Measures platform.

Note: Institutions who have already submitted data will be able to benchmark their data against other participating universities. Institutions who have not previously contributed data will only be able to view aggregated data.

If you would like to take part in this annual exercise, please contact to set up an account and receive email updates.

Next steps for ACU Measures

To improve both the depth and breadth of benchmarking data available through ACU Measures, the ACU is currently exploring an extension of the current use of data sharing and collaboration agreements with professional associations and national bodies and agencies, and increased use open-access data sets.

While the service will facilitate the sharing of experiences and aid the dissemination of good practice by providing university leadership with information about performance in specific areas, privacy is hugely important to us and participating universities. The ACU assures that responses of individual institutions will always be kept private and anonymous, and that individual responses will only be available to users from that respective institution.

If you have any views or suggestions relating to data sharing or any other aspect of benchmarking, please contact us at