03rd February 2016
Welcome to Stephen Dauncey, currently Chief Finance Officer for Highways England, who has been appointed as Director of Finance at The University of Manchester. He will join the University on 29 March 2016 for a handover period with Steve Mole who is retiring, before taking up the role on 1 May 2016. Congratulations too to Sue Richardson, currently Deputy Director of Finance at the University of Aberdeen, who is moving to be the Director of Finance at Coventry University. Richard Spilsbury, currently Director of Finance at Birmingham City University, has decided not to replace the batteries in his calculator and is retiring in May after 27 years at BCU (in its various guises). We will miss Richard, who at one time was Treasurer of BUFDG, but he assures me he is coming to the 2016 Conference in Lincoln. Congratulations all round!
Tax Strategy Draft Legislation
There is still some confusion over whether universities are caught by the draft legislation intended for large businesses in relation to publishing tax strategies. The legislation is drafted such that if your university group is either a) already in the Senior Accounting Officer regime or b) is incorporated under the Companies Act and it breaches the thresholds set out in the legislation, then under a) your subsidiaries and under b) the university itself will be caught by this new legislation and will have to compile and publish a tax strategy in line with the requirements in the legislation. What is not so clear is how the government intends the 'relevant bodies' part of the legislation to work, which seems to include universities which were incorporated by Royal Charter. EY has been in contact with HMRC Policy on BUFDG's behalf and their contacts at HMRC are 'taking internal advice' on this as they had not intended universities to be affected by the legislation. In the meantime, further details of the point HMRC is checking can be found in our full news article.
UCEA pay and pensions update
UCEA produce an excellent bi-monthly employment bulletin, the latest of which covers a number of areas including apprenticeships, employment policy, case law summaries, pension issues, and more. It’s available to download from the UCEA website (UCEA login required).
It also includes a handy calendar of important dates in the HE pensions year for pension and payroll professionals to consider. These include:
- 31 March – The USS and SAUL final salary schemes will close and all final salary members will move into the new USS and SAUL career average schemes.
- 6 April - The current basic state pension and state second pension (S2P) will be abolished and replaced by a single-tier state pension. The abolition of S2P will also mean the end of contracting-out.
- 6 April - The Lifetime Allowance is reduced from £1.25m to £1m and a new Tapered Annual Allowance is introduced. Further information on the new Lifetime Allowance protections and the Tapered Annual Allowance can be found in UCEA’s pension tax briefing document.
- 1 October – The new USS defined contribution (DC) section will be introduced and the £55,000 salary threshold implemented
In addition, the bulletin contains news of two separate UCEA pension events on Monday 22 February. “The morning event will be the A-Z of pensions in HE and is designed to help colleagues gain a fuller grasp of pensions policy developments and an understanding of commonly used pensions terms, phrases and jargon. The afternoon event covers issues relating to auto re-enrolment and will be of particular interest to those HEIs that are yet to reach their auto re-enrolment date, but also to those still dealing with the strategic and policy issues arising from auto re-enrolment”.
Another case on eligible bodies/VAT exemption in Higher Education
The Court of Appeal recently heard the appeal of Finance and Business Training Ltd (FBT) into whether it was a 'college' of the University of Wales and therefore provided exempt education, in the light of the CJEU decision in MDDP which had been delivered after FBT's loss in the Upper Tribunal. The Court of Appeal found that FBT was not a 'college' of the University of Wales, and that the UK legislation is compliant with EU legislation in this area, despite there being no direct read-across of the 'bodies governed by public law' in the EU Directive. KPMG's article on the case provides further information.
The university housing headache
When universities consider their accommodation issues they’re normally thinking about student residences. However there’s an extensive article in the Times Higher this week on the challenge facing universities in providing suitable and affordable local housing for their staff. For those in the areas that the article primarily focuses on – Oxford, Cambridge, and London – this will come as little surprise, but the article highlights the difficult decisions facing potential recruits when weighing up whether or not to take a job offer in desirable cities.
While there are concerns for the ability of universities in those cities to recruit top academics, William James, pro vice-chancellor for planning and resources at Oxford, says that it is early career research staff who are worst affected. “Anxiety about unaffordable rents and the unsuitability of cheap rooms is good neither for them nor for their research”, he comments. The issue extends to support workers such as ‘bus drivers, nurses, and teachers’, as well as students themselves. “London Assembly’s housing committee warned that those from “ordinary families” risk being priced out of the capital, where average weekly student rents reached nearly £160 a week in 2012‑13: a rise of 26 per cent in three years”, the article adds. Ultimately the article fears that the UK could lose out on students and staff to cheaper cities in Europe, the US, and beyond.
With national house prices showing no signs of cooling off, does the local housing market need to become a key strategic issue at more universities?
Modern Slavery Act - training offered
HEPA have contracted with Dr Olga Martin-Ortega, a Reader in International Public Law at the University of Greenwich to offer members a half day training course on the Modern Slavery Act. The course will give an overview of the social and human rights risks in the supply chain of products procured by the higher education sector and the responsibilities of public buyers towards these chains. It will provide the international and national context and specific assessments of industry conditions. In particular it focuses on the new obligations under the Modern Slavery Act and will ensure that you not only understand your modern Slavery statement but also the requirements to develop this over time.
The course will run in London on 28th April and again in Leeds (date to be confirmed but anticipated early May) the cost will be just £95 per person. Details will be available on our webpages within the next week. Click here if you wish Emma to contact you when booking is open. Please note spaces for these events will be limited however we will run a further session in an appropriate location if there is sufficient demand. With thanks to LUPC and NEUPC for supporting this event by providing us with rooms in order that the cost to delegates can be reduced.
BUFDG Response to HMT's Employer Provided Living Accommodation Call for Evidence
With thanks to Roger Bennett of the University of Leicester who drafted it, BUFDG has just submitted a response to HM Treasury's call for evidence regarding employer provided living accommodation on behalf of the HE sector, which you can read here. Thanks also to all those of you who submitted information to Roger and Amanda for this.
Reminder of how to attach documents to discussions
Have you ever posted on the discussion board and needed to share a document with colleagues as part of your posting? Well it's now easy to attach a document to share alongside your post. When you click ‘start a new topic’ or ‘post reply’, the box that pops up to write your text in has a new tab, called ‘documents’…
Then to upload a document, simply click on the ‘upload document’ button, select the document you want to share, and then click ‘OK’, and your document will be attached to your post.
Any other questions? Email Matt.
Is PhD sponsorship VfM for firms?
In January we reported on the trend in Higher Education over the last few years for the increased focus on university interaction with business. The most recent annual results of HEFCE’s HE – Business and Community Interaction Survey (HE-BCI) showed a 5% increase (approx. £770million) in the amount invested in the sector by large businesses between 2012-13 and 13-14, a 10% increase in the volume of interactions between universities and the wider economy, and that universities brought in almost £50 million from the sale of equity in spin-off companies. In addition, as HEFCE’s announcement on the latest round of UKRPIF highlighted, funding is increasingly allocated on the ability of recipients to attract or match with additional funding from the business sector.
In a related but more concerning development, a recent conference on researcher development in London addressed the issue of PhD students sponsored by businesses, and found that retention was a significant issue. The Times Higher reports that Chris Firth, chief scientist at the UK arm of Thales, said at the conference that Thales were only able to keep about 10% of their 50 supported PhD students, and that the picture was similar in other firms as Rolls-Royce “get about 25 per cent retained in roles and 25 per cent stay in academia,” with the rest “off to other places, often the City”. He added that “It is becoming a challenge because our boards are saying: ‘Why are we investing in them?”.
Minister for Science & Universities delivers CaSE Annual Lecture
Last week Amanda attended the annual lecture of the Campaign for Science and Engineering ('CaSE'), this year given by the Minister for Science and Universities, Jo Johnson MP. It took place in the famous Faraday Lecture Theatre (which you might recognise from the BBC's Christmas Lectures) at the Royal Institution. You can read Amanda's summary of the lecture here or read the full script for the minister's speech here.
The Welsh government is looking to end tuition fee funding for students that attend for-profit HEIs, in a bid to reduce the loss of state money outside of Wales, the Times Higher reports. The policy change, announced on the 21st January, will see the government providing public funding in future only to students at providers with charitable status.
It might be slightly out of the realm of the usual finance day job, but from Monday 8th to Friday 12th February, NASMA, the National Association of Student Money Advisers is running National Student Money Week 2016 (NSMW16). The theme for this year is Students, Money and Mental Health. As university finance departments know a thing or two about managing money, it’s a great opportunity for direct engagement between finance teams and students. Perhaps have a word with your friendly local student advisers to see if there’s any way you can get involved. The Student Loans Company are also co-ordinating their own Money Week to coincide with NSMW16. If you have any questions you can contact the NASMA office via email or on 0113 212 3503.
On the 18th January the NUS launched its ‘Divest-Invest’ campaign, with the target of encouraging universities to move £100million in investment out of fossil fuels and into renewables. The launch was accompanied by a press release and survey that claimed that “85 per cent of staff, students and students’ union officers think their university should invest in renewables and 75 per cent want the opportunity to invest locally”. Further details are available on the EAUC website.
Our Job of the Week is for a Deputy Director of Finance at Buckinghamshire New University. The deadline for applications is the 15th February. There are lots of other vacancies listed as usual on the BUFDG jobs page.