Closure Report

Completion Report SAS017






Colm Harmon

Project Sponsor



Gavin Douglas

Project Sponsor


Approved by email

Amanda Percy

Programme Manager


Approved by email

Brian Butler

Programme Lead


Approved by email after updates to EqIA and Benchmarking deliverables made


Quality Assurance


Approved in meeting 19/3/20

Project Team




Ros Claase

Senior Design Lead


Approved by email

Rosie Edwards Design Lead 12/03/20 Approved by email
Emma Hunter Academic Lead 13/03/20 Approved by email
Chris Mowat Academic Lead    
Simon Riley Academic Lead 11/03/20 Approved by email after updates to Benchmarking and PT system deliverables made
Ranald Swanson Project Manager 11/03/20 Approved as author



The University of Edinburgh committed to a review of key professional service functions.  Colleagues in Colleges, Schools and the Centre are running the initiative, known as the Service Excellence Programme, together in a joint approach.

The Student Administration & Support (SA&S) programme started in May 2016 as a sub programme of the Service Excellence programme “SEP”; Within that programme, a review of student support and personal tutoring was proposed, and established under SAS017.

Were the project goals met?   

The objective of the project was to obtain approval, from both the Senate Learning and Teaching Committee (SLTC) [Known as Senate Education Committee (SEC) since September 2019], and the Service Excellence Student Administration and Support Programme Board, for a recommended model for student support.

This was to ensure progress towards the Student Experience Action Plan objective [s8.3.1] that “…[the] intended outcome is that students have consistent access to high quality support with academic, personal / pastoral, professional and career issues.”  

That recommended model would be part of an options appraisal informed by: 

  • A current state assessment (CSA) 

  • Reviews of best practice both within UoE and other institutions worldwide; 

  • Reviews of staff and student needs; 

  • Consultation on potential models. 

A detailed design, based on an approved option, would then be developed, allowing an implementation project to be planned, funded and delivered.

All of these goals were fully met. However, not all deliverables identified at the start of the project were fully delivered.

Were the project deliverables fully or partially accomplished?   

Partially accomplished

Deliverables Achieved:

Deliverables Achievement
Project Team recruited  Partially delivered - There was an initial delay in recruiting academic leads, and design leads were not at full allocation in early months. Throughout the project, there was a lack of Business Analysis (BA) resource, which meant that many BA tasks needed delivered by Design Leads. 
Project Scope, Governance, Design Group membership and ToR signed-off Fully delivered
Design principles agreed  Fully delivered
EqIA approved Partially delivered - Project maintained an Equality Impact Assessment for the project, but original deliverable of a detailed design for implementation included delivery of an EqIA for the actual services to be implemented. This will now need to be created as part of the wider implementation project SAS022.
High-level plan of work (Phase 2 activities scheduled) approved  Fully delivered - Phase 2 became covered by the development of potential models, the consultation exercise for those, and the development of the evolved model (and related Business Case).
Collation and review of existing internal material (literature review) completed  Fully delivered
Workshops/interviews with students/staff Fully delivered - These were delivered by a combination of methods, including workshops, 1-2-1 interviews, pop-ups and open presentations/Q&A sessions
Field Trips - Comparator institutions  Fully delivered - The team visited a range of national and international institutions, as well as attending relevant conferences (see resources page in infohub for full details).
Models (4-5) for discussion developed  Fully delivered - Five draft possible models were created within the team, and then refined to three for the consultation exercise. 
Benchmarking documented  Partially delivered - project team took extensive notes as part of visits and conference attendance, drew on these examples in the Consultation Recommendation e.g. for appropriate ratios and skillsets. The project team shared a list of conferences, HEIs visited and desk-based research undertaken on the project InfoHub. However, no distinct "benchmarking" document was created which could be used as a direct reference when drawing up "evolved" model. This is one area where dedicated BA resource would have assisted.
Current PT system reviewed  Partially delivered - The current PT Tools system was considered as part of the current state assessment, but a full technical review of what it would take to improve/replace it was not performed. This is distinct from review of PT system in the sense of assessment of current provision of personal tutoring support, which was fully delivered.
Current State Assessment (CSA) finalised  Fully delivered - A copy can be viewed here -
HR and Finance review of models documented  Partially delivered - A full review by HR and Finance was not carried out on all models taken into the consultation. However, the "evolved" model that was developed based on feedback from the consultation was reviewed with HR and Finance leads as part of the development of the implementation Business Case.
Options Appraisal Consultation version drafted  Fully delivered - A scoring model was developed for proposed models, and was applied to those, current state and the "evolved" model
Consultation completed  Fully delivered - Full consultation report available here -
Options Appraisal finalised  Fully delivered - Options appraisal and recommendation approved by programme lead, Sponsors, SSPT Design Group, and SAS Programme Board. Key recommendation of implementing "evolved" model approved. 
Detailed impact assessment of approved option  Partially delivered - Business Case for implementing evolved model carried out impact assessment at university level, based on uniforum data. However, detailed impact assessments at School level moved into implementation project as part of SAS022.
Detailed Implementation Plan/FBC  Not delivered - This detailed implementation planning included in PID for implementation project as part of SAS022.

Deliverables not achieved:


Why not achieved

Business Case sign-off

As the approval of this Business Case was not taken for approval to the University Executive February 2020 meeting, it was agreed that it would be included as a deliverable in the wider implementation (and Service design) project SAS022. It is therefore included as a deliverable in the PID for that project (rather than as a dependency for it on this project, allowing closure).


Did the project deliver a solution to the problems being addressed?

Yes - The project delivered a Business Case for implementation of a new model for providing student support, based on knowledge from a current state assessment, options analysis, and feedback from university-wide consultation.

Does the Project Sponsor(s) agree that this project can be closed at this time? 

Yes - The project was run under dual accountability with Gavin Douglas and Colm Harmon (who took over from Charlie Jeffery) and they both agree the project can be closed, subject to inclusion of the BC approval deliverable under SAS022.


The overall costs from the PID were: 

Projected Cost £201,230
Actual Effort (£/Days in ASTA) TBC
Difference TBC - Approx £10k overspend - awaiting final travel expenses from PMO
Variance reason The project incurred an overspend as initial intention had been to have approval of implementation Business Case in December 2019, with closure tasks into January 2020. The Design Leads and Project Manager continued to work on the project into February 2020 to develop the Business Case and to progress it through governance groups. From mid-February 2020, the bulk of Design Lead time was covered under a short note for planning phase of SAS022, with only closure tasks continuing in SAS017.

Key Learning Points:

NB These are a collection of learning points gathered from the project team, including previous members, and do not reflect the views of any one individual.

What went well?

  1. Design autonomy - During the project, the Design Leads had a wide degree of autonomy which allowed them to work with the academic leads and Sponsors to engage with wider stakeholders, develop models and plan consultation approach. This was balanced with the governance oversight via the SEP/SAS programme meaning that there was an awareness within the project of wider changes in development, and how student support could align with those
  2. Language tailored - Wherever possible, staff/student-facing communications were jargon/"project-speak" free, or adjusted to suit terminology more commonly understood amongst the university's various audiences. This helped to get more useful feedback during current state assessment and consultation phases
  3. Communication with stakeholders - The project team had a wide range of ways of communicating with staff/students, including open pop-up sessions in public areas, workshops, roadshow/town hall sessions, 1-2-1 interviews, as well as publishing regular news articles and documents on the project Infohub (promoted by posters and postcards, as well as emails and via line management "cascades"). Pop-up sessions (advertised in advance) were held frequently and the project team found that, as well as approach staff/students in those public areas, they were being sought out by staff keen to discuss their views in an informal setting
  4. Academic Partnership - Having academic leads as part of the project team, and well represented on the project Design Group meant that potential models were well scrutinised before presentation as part of consultation exercise. The partnership within the team meant that the project had greater credibility with both professional services and academic staff.
  5. Supportive Design Group - The Design Group provided strong support to the project team, especially in the consultation phase, with members creating time to attend, and front, workshops and presentations, as well as promoting the consultation in their own Schools
  6. Infohub - The project developed its Infohub, both for project progress, and as a tool for storing consultation documents, event details, outputs from workshops for review and feedback forms for staff/students contributing to the consultation. It's promotion via email, postcards, posters and pop-up events meant it had a very high viewership (both page views and unique viewer count). There were noticeable spikes in viewer and response rates following all staff and all student emails isssued by/on behalf of the Sponsors
  7. Wellbeing Engagement - Having committed time from Director of Student Wellbeing meant design could align closely with the plans for development of that service
  8. Dual Accountability - Having 2 sponsors, and reporting to both the SAS Programme Board and the Senate Education Committee could have created conflicts of interest. However, these were managed well by the Design Leads and Sponsors. Any future project running under this model should formalise the responsibilities between the groups, to reduce that reliance on individuals having such a close working relationship
  9. Iterative Design - Through the whole project, the design that evolved was created iteratively, with initial potential design created, adapted (and in some cases discarded) based on challenge from within the team, from the Design Group, from comparison with benchmark peers, and from feedback during the consultation phase
  10. Implementation Project - Having the project restricted to a review/recommendation project, with implementation to be established as a separate project, meant the project team focus was on delivering the best possible review, without having to fit with a deadline for implementation. It also created a clear "gateway" check to allow the University to make a decision to approve/not approve the recommendation, without having to cancel an implementation project

What didn’t go so well?

  1. Business Case Approval - A key deliverable to have an approved Business Case was not achieved. Although it has not been rejected, and is expected to be approved, further work is still required to provide confidence in the investment case figures
  2. Investment case - There was not recognition across Senior Leadership Team early in the project that the outcome was likely to be an investment case, nor within the project team that academic time savings should not be included as financial savings (at 100% at least)
  3. Governance group - The project did not have a Project Board. Although the Design Group provided support to the project team, it did not act as a governance group, and all key decisions rested with the Sponsors
  4. HR Involvement - Although HR did validate the evolved model, it would have been better to have had more involvement from them at an earlier stage
  5. Academic Release - There was a delay in obtaining agreement with Schools for academic resources (secondment, etc). Discussions for this kind of commitment needed to start much earlier - which would also have allowed for better planning of peaks and troughs of academics' availability. This is not yet confirmed for the implementation project
  6. Business Analyst availability Lack of BA resources throughout the project meant that Design Leads had to spend a lot of time on analysis activities, and data captured during consultation phase was not in a format easily analysed (i.e. design of surveys and workshop formats would have been improved with BA input reducing workload later in the project)
  7. Town Halls - Although one Town Hall event was considered a success, the majority were either cancelled due to low uptake or replaced by less formal roadshow events. While future consultations should consider running a small number of large scale "launch" or "conclusion" events, the project team found that more frequent and smaller, direct contact with staff and students was significantly more constructive
  8. Initial timescales - At project initiation, programme expectation was that a Business Case could be delivered (after consultation) by September 2019, subsequently adjusted to November 2019. Once consultation planning had been carried out, it was accepted that this was not a feasible date, as consultation could not meaningfully be run during summer exam and holiday period 
  9. Foreign institutions - Although the visits to international institutions were very informative, and contributed to the designs put to consultation, the project team had assumed there were stronger existing relationships through Edinburgh Global. In practice, many of these had to be developed as a result of the project's request and therefore took longer to organise and execute. The consequent delay in organising these visits resulted to an extent in higher costs and less availability for travel and accommodation options. The timing of the visits took place out of core semester meaning the team did not necessarily observe alternative models in action.

If you had a project like this again, what would you improve?

  • Timings - Initial planning/design stages would allow much more time for collaborative working with Schools, and for consultation
  • BA resources - These would have been committed at a much earlier stage to assist in design of materials, workshops and in methodology for data capture to allow easier analysis
  • Decisions logging - Key decisions would have been captured in a decisions log, with formal sign-offs, to reduce ambiguity and confusion

Outstanding issues:

As noted above but key items:

  • Business Case approval - To be delivered as part of SAS022
  • Clarification of academic input to next stages
  • Feedback to comparator institutions with outcome/lessons - To be delivered as part of SAS022 once BC approved

Project Info

Personal Tutor and Student Support Team Review
Service Excellence - Student Administration and Support (SAS)
Management Office
Project Manager
Ranald Swanson
Project Sponsor
Gavin Douglas
Current Stage
Start Date
Planning Date
Delivery Date
Close Date
Overall Priority