The universities of Deakin, Tasmania (UTAS) and Wollongong (UOW) are not aligned with any university groups or networks. This paper presents their cross-institutional benchmarking relationship as a case study in building the necessary trust, collaboration and shared methodology. The partnership was distinguished by the way it tapped into a collegial quality improvement culture. It had its genesis at the 2009 AUQF conference and the partners adapted and ‘test-drove’ a framework previously developed by an ALTC Teaching Quality Indicators Project team. UTAS and UOW had formerly been involved in a trial benchmarking project on academic transition support in 2009 and extended this partnership to Deakin. The universities are comparable in terms of establishment, discipline areas, regional presence and experience of the AUQA audit cycle, with some significant contextual differences that needed to be recognised, such as structures and terminology. They are at similar stages in relation to the development of their benchmarking policy and processes. The focus on assessment ensured the project would explore the issues central to the Cycle 2 AUQA audits, such as standards, learning outcomes and student feedback. The explicit benchmarking of assessment processes made transparent the areas of improvement and areas of good practice in relation to assessment standards. Outcomes included action plans for each university and a robust framework for benchmarking assessment.