HESA was commissioned by HEFCE to provide an assimilation of current activity within the UK HE sector in relation to benchmarking, under the title of Benchmarking to improve efficiency – Status Report. This was envisaged as a first phase project to draw together information on available and potential data sources and services for benchmarking, produce an inventory of benchmarking activities across the sector and generate some more indepth case studies of selected benchmarking initiatives. It was envisaged that this would point the way to a second phase project which would aim to improve and increase benchmarking capacity and capability in the sector to support increasing efficiencies. The project team conducted a rapid appraisal of benchmarking data, activities and research, against a challenging timescale. The HESA HEI User Group, which includes representation from a broad range of sector associations, acted in a steering capacity. Information was gathered through contact with relevant HE representative bodies, funding bodies and data providers, focused around the HESA HEI User Group but supplemented where appropriate by a range of other contacts. Semi‐structured interviews were held by telephone or in person with members of staff at HEIs and key organisations who are involved in benchmarking activities and initiatives. Key information was gathered by means of a questionnaire to the planning community. Reference was also made to academic and other studies on benchmarking.