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A federation is a set of affiliated institutions within a defined area. Typically, all members share common components of service delivery, professional services, back-office services, and administration. Usually there is an overarching governance structure and a system of shared decision making however, all partners maintain their own brand and identity. Most federations work under a common system of governance within which individual members retain local autonomy with their own governing board and executive leadership.

Members of a federation share a central strategy and system of resource allocation and make shared decisions. Individual organisations do not have the freedom to choose whether to cooperate, neither do they have the option to leave the federation except in a fundamental reorganisation after due process.

Federations can also help build economies of scale, especially in relation to professional services, strategic financial management, marketing, estates development and management, ICT infrastructure. They can also offer a more extensive and integrated approach to academic, corporate and commercial facilities.

Institutions considering a federation model are expected to approach SFC at the early stages of discussion. Our role is more explicit, and engagement will likely include reviewing options appraisals, membership of groups established to oversee the process, and regular communication and meetings with the institutions involved in the creation of a federation.

Case studies

University of London

The University of London consists of 17 independent federated members; Kings College London, Goldsmiths, UCL and SOAS to name just a few. Students studying at any one of those institutions belong to both that particular federation member as well as the University of London. Federation members are self-governing, setting their own entrance criteria and in some cases even have their own degree awarding powers. The University of London provides some centralised shared services, but members have autonomy over subject content or the development of new academic programmes. There are several benefits to this model for member institutions and their students; students from University of London colleges who wish to take a course at another college within the collegiate as part of their degree can register as intercollegiate students; students also have access to a wider range of facilities and services as part of the federation.

SFC Strategic Plan 2022-27

Building a connected, agile, sustainable tertiary education and research system for Scotland.

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