Benchmarking is a popular tool for self-evaluation and self-improvement in industry and commerce. It enables an organization to compare itself with others, to identify its relative strengths and weaknesses, and to improve its working practices accordingly. In higher education it is now being promoted to support the regulation of academic standards and also as a vehicle for improving educational, administrative and business processes in a globally competitive academic environment. This work provides an holistic view of the application of benchmarking. It uses case studies and system-wide reviews to show how benchmarking is being used by universities and colleges, by subject and functional communities, in the UK and in other higher education systems, to aid self-regulation and self-improvement. It is relevant to academic and non-academic managers in higher education.