BUFDG Digest - 10 April 2024

10 April 2024      Amanda Darley, Head of Operations and Engagement


A reminder that all 28 session recordings from the Finance Festival are available for all members to watch on demand. Browse the recordings here to see which topics are useful for you, or you can look at our helpful ‘What should I watch?’ list to pick out the most relevant.

HW Fisher have followed up the session they presented with Oxford University Innovation on Tech Transfer and the Commercialisation of IP with this blog with some useful tips on key clauses in licensing agreements, royalty reporting, and effective royalty audits.


Universities across the country are reviewing course portfolios and making difficult financial decisions, but what is the right SHAPE and size, and what is potentially short-sighted? ‘STEM courses are useful and SHAPE courses are a luxury’ is the easy, black-and-white narrative that politicians and the media often indulge in these days, but of course it isn’t that simple or straightforward. The Wonkhe blog, False Economies – why cutting SHAPE courses is bad for HE and bad for the country, explores some of the nuance, including pointing to four reports from the past couple of years setting out the benefits of SHAPE subjects. The blog concludes that while there is ‘no easy answer to the financial predicament many UK universities find themselves in… SHAPE is as important as STEM to research, education, and employability and seeing these as dichotomous and … in tension is reductive’. (I’ve deliberately not defined SHAPE or STEM, and if you read the article comments you’ll see why).

A question posed by Smita Jamdar in this Shakespeare Martineau blog for AHEP (the Association for Higher Education Professionals) is How should universities position themselves in the forthcoming general election?. It’s a fascinating and provocative read, with some useful conclusions. Smita starts by stating that it is ‘difficult to recall a previous election which higher education went into with such a potentially toxic combination of being in desperate need of investment at a time of acute pressure on public finances, and simultaneously at risk of haemorrhaging the support and goodwill it needs to secure it’.

She goes on to confirm that it is ‘well known that universities now lose money on their core activities of Home undergraduate tuition and research, which by any definition is not a sustainable business model’ and with other income generating opportunities limited for varied reasons, ‘it seems inevitable that some will fail. Indeed, it is a feature and not a bug of the current market-led system in England that some providers must fail. It is therefore alarming that there appears to be no political or societal awareness of the likely consequences of such failure, and no effective regulatory process for managing such failure.... there will inevitably be disruption and adverse consequences and the impact of such a disorderly exit on students, staff, partners and local communities, and indeed on the sector’s reputation, should not be underestimated.’ But there is some hope – Smita’s recommendations are that universities can and should ‘demonstrate that they are key partners in supporting national renewal’, ‘articulate more clearly how they meet the needs of their regions and communities … to address the myriad of challenges each region faces’, and ‘address the perception that they are not delivering a good deal for students by reviewing and revising their processes so that they are as student-friendly as possible and being as clear as possible with prospective students about what they can expect.’ Thought-provoking stuff!

Wonkhe suggests that There may be ways to make UK higher education cheaper to run, in an article which runs through most of the theories around what makes UK H E expensive compared to most other countries, and concludes that ‘we do need a plan (and some planning)’ and that ‘a new restructuring regime is needed’ based around the four risks identified by DfE during Covid which are still present.


The OfS has published the guidance from the DfE on the Strategic Priorities Grant allocation of funding for 2024/25, with Jim Dickinson describing the headlines in the letter as ‘fairly grim’ in Wonkhe’s coverage, with just a £2m/0.14% uplift which is a £53m real terms cut. As well as the many actual (including Uni Connect, postgraduate taught supplement, and the intensive PG supplement), and real terms (almost everything else) cuts, the article highlights that ‘there’s a remarkable (and much longer than usual) list of restrictions and strings that very much ties the hands of an OfS that is supposed to be at arm’s length from government, and is doing its own review of how funding is allocated’.

There’s been a flurry of articles and discussion over the past few weeks about the Australian Universities Accord and what the UK could learn from it. One of the interesting things about it is that it seeks to take a long-term (up to 2050) strategic view and is also seeking the long-term funding to go alongside that, though that period will obviously see several elections and potential changes of government/funding priorities. To read more analysis see the HEPI blog What can we learn from Australia’s University Accord? and Wonkhe’s piece, In the end, it’s how the Accord is used that will matter.

The Times Higher Education reports that early data suggest the number of international students starting taught postgraduate courses in English HEPs is down 6%, but some individual campuses have been hit much harder. Heses data (the OfS Higher Education Students Early Statistics) indicates that there were around 340,990 new overseas entrants, a drop of 3% compared with the 2022-23 data. But with the number of international undergraduates increased slightly, the number of taught postgraduates fell by 6%. This masks enormous differences across the sector though, with some universities see as much as a 75% drop in recruitment numbers.


Now in their 20th year, applications are open for the 2024 UK & Ireland Green Gown Awards, in association with UKRI. All categories are open to any tertiary education establishment - including all post-16 educational institutions such as colleges, universities, and learning and skills institutions. Apply now and share this with your peers and network - the application deadline is Wednesday, 5 June. 


While the rest of us were finished with our new year greetings three months ago, Julia and Andrea would like to wish you a Happy New Tax year! They've trawled through the hundreds of HMRC updates for the new tax year so that you don't have to and Julia has produced an extremely helpful summary of useful HMRC guidance that anyone dealing with employment tax should keep in their arsenal.

Payroll teams will be under significant pressure in the next year as holiday pay reforms go live, HMRC look to implement the mandatory payrolling of benefits and also require hours worked on monthly payroll returns. Something to bear in mind if you are looking at a transformation project in the next 12 months that will involve your payroll team.

On the international front, Bulgaria and Romania have joined the Schengen area and therefore the Schengen visa rules. Plus there have been a raft of changes to the UK immigration rules this year and you might want to review Vialto Partner’s guide to understanding increases to the minimum salaries rules for Skilled Workers and Global Business Mobility visas as it will cause challenges.

A recording of the useful employment status training presented by Caroline Jones of BDO and Rebecca Seeley Harris of Re:Legal, that took place on 21 March, is available on our website, along with the slides from the session.


The e-learning package of the transforming public procurement programme will be launching on Government Commercial College (GCC) on Monday 22 April 2024. Here is some useful information to aid preparations:

  • You will need a GCC account to access the e-learning, which you can create now so you are ready to go when the package launches. You can find out more about creating a GCC account here – please do share this information with anybody at your HEP who will be undertaking the e-learning.
  • Please note automatic GOVERNMENT COMMERCIAL COLLEGE - GOV.UK emails sent from the GCC originate from These messages can get stuck in firewalls so please ensure that this address is allowed by your IT team to enable important messages such as account confirmation to be delivered.
  • The e-learning is the second component of the L and D package – a reminder that the Knowledge Drops are available to browse now, and it would be a good idea to familiarise yourself with these in advance of undertaking the e-learning.

A big thank you to everybody who has put forward Super User nominations in the past few weeks; please do let Ashley know asap if you have any further nominations! 

Finally, as highlighted in the previous Digest, the Standard Selection Questionnaire (SQ) has been updated and the associated Procurement Policy Note (PPN) has been published as PPN 03/24. You can download the PPN and its annexes here, and you may also find this marked copy of the new SQ useful. 



The SFC is recruiting for a new CEO - a leader who will combine proven analytical and financial skills with the ability to influence effectively at the highest levels of government, while leading a culture of continuous improvement and inclusion internally. 

Bookings are open for the Scottish Universities Finance Conference, being held at the University of Glasgow on 30 May. The event is for finance and procurement staff (across all levels) within any Scottish universities, so book your FREE place now! 

Any Scottish university fee anomalies grant claims for 2023/24 need to be submitted to the SFC by 19 April. 



You can still book your place for next week’s Payroll and Employment taxes Group (PEG) quarterly update (17 April) taking place online. 

There are still spaces at the free Global Mobility Roundtable meetings hosted by Vialto: in London on 22 April, in Leeds on 23 April, in Edinburgh on 24 April, or in Birmingham on 25 April. 

The Scottish and Northern Ireland tax group meeting takes place online on 24 April, and there are two more tax-based Time to Talk sessions this month, both are online, member-only, roundtable discussions – Tax Automation on 25 April and VAT and Clinical Trials on 30 April 

And we don’t want management accountants to feel left out, so there is an online Time to Talk Monthly Reporting on 24 April, an informal meeting to share ideas, thoughts and approaches on monthly reporting. 

All the sessions listed above are free for members to attend. 



As well as the SFC CEO role mentioned above, our job of the fortnight is the Financial Controller at Northumbria University. The university is looking for someone to deliver strategic leadership of all financial control and compliance activities, including statutory reporting, tax and VAT returns, and the integrity of systems, and be a key part of the Finance Senior Management Team. 

There are lots of other job vacancies listed on the BUFDG Jobs page. 

Read more

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