21st September 2016

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New BUFDG Learning and Development Manager Dominic Fryer

We welcome the newest member of the BUFDG team - our new Learning and Development Manager Rachel McLone - who started work on Monday. She will be leading efforts to develop our L&D offering, including identifying training needs, e-learning opportunities, and much more. Rachel would love to hear about any ideas you might have. You can contact her via email or in the office on 01509 22 88 64. 

Will we stay (in the EU Customs Union) or will we go? Amanda Darley

Another one of those examples where 'out' might not mean 'out'. According to an FT article, "Philip Hammond has ordered the Treasury to study whether new technology can facilitate goods inspections if Britain leaves the EU’s customs union." But debate still rages within government over whether the UK should leave the EU customs union or try to remain within it. It's a final outcome that we won't, of course, know for some time, as it will also depend on the negotiations with the EU. As universities purchase a significant volume of goods from overseas, the thought of additional delays and cost when purchasing from EU countries could be quite a concern. Could technology really tackle this? Especially for time-critical items with very short shelf-lives for scientific research etc.

If you want to know more about this debate and the possible options which might result, then consider attending our customs and import duties course on 6th October. The one-day course, run by The Customs People for BUFDG members, will cover three distinct periods for the UK's customs rules: the period prior to the introduction of the Union Customs Code on 1 May 2016 and what risks or opportunities there might still be; what the Union Customs Code means for universities in practical terms; and what Brexit might hold for imports into the UK, as the UK currently has no customs laws of its own at all. The course costs £250 and will be held at Woburn House in London. For more details and booking, see the BUFDG Eventbrite page.

Heated discussion of the HE Bill Matt Sisson

Regular readers of the FT may have seen regular columnist Martin Wolf’s article on the HE Bill, and the subsequent and numerous letters in response. In his initial article on the 2nd September, Mr Wolf called the bill an "unforgivable" betrayal of Conservative values, and expressed his dismay at the scale of the regulatory powers granted by the legislation to the Office for Students.

In conclusion he questioned “why a government with responsibility for a sector that is so astoundingly successful should not approach its reform with greater circumspection”, adding that “there really are very good reasons why the competitive market is a bad model for the higher education sector. And there are also very good reasons to mistrust the ability of government-appointed regulators to curb the ability of exploitative providers to take advantage of their right to offer degrees”.

The first letter of response was in support, with Roger Brown, Emeritus Professor of Higher Education Policy at Liverpool Hope University, calling the proposals “a crude, uninformed and ultimately ideological attempt to portray universities as supply-side oligopolists”. This was shortly followed by one from Sir Anthony Seldon, V-C at the University of Buckingham, who was firmly on the side of the HE minister. He believed that “the broad thrust of Mr Johnson’s vision is in tune with liberalisation of a sector which for too long has been dominated by the big beasts operating significantly in a restricted market”.

Sir Anthony’s letter has since generated two opposing ones in reply, from Tom Hickey at the University of Brighton, and from multiple signatories representing the Council for the Defence of British Universities (CBDU). I doubt they will be the last.

BUFDG response to EU eBooks consultation Amanda Darley

The BUFDG response to the EU's recent consultation - on allowing the reduced rate of VAT to be applied to eBooks and other electronic publications - can be found here, with additional comments here.

Need to know more about Category Management? Emma Keenan

Our one day course will give you all the skills you need to know how to successfully implement category management in your institution. Experienced trainer Dave Porter will take you through the steps in a comfortable environment where questions are encouraged. You can expect the day to include:

  • The principles of category management and the ‘Instigate, Innovate, Implement and Improve’ strategic procurement process
  • Category mapping using the Proc-He classification system
  • Applying analytical tools at the ‘Instigate and Innovate’ stages
  • Identifying and evaluating options
  • Implementation planning and related roles and responsibilities
  • Presentation, discussion and relevant case study group exercises

To book your place on Tuesday 18th October for just £160, click here.

VAT in the Middle East (and in Scotland) Amanda Darley

An independent think-tank, Reform Scotland, has recommended that control of VAT in Scotland should be devolved to Holyrood once the UK leaves the EU, the BBC reports. Under the Scotland Act 2016 the Scottish Government will be assigned a share of the VAT raised in Scotland but, at present, EU law prohibits varied rates of VAT in different areas within a single member state. Reform Scotland's director has said there is "no reason why the UK Government cannot give a commitment to devolve VAT in full to the Scottish Parliament once we have formally left the EU". The Reform Scotland press release and submission to the Scottish Parliament can be read in full here.

Meanwhile, Egypt has introduced VAT with effect from 8 September in what EY describes as a "surprise move", with their global tax alert providing more details. EY has also launched a microsite to provide updates regarding the planned introduction of VAT in the so-called Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries from 1 January 2018, including a useful summary document. The GCC countries comprise Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Integrated Reporting research and report shows big advantages Matt Sisson

A new joint report between the World Bank, CIPFA, and the IIRC aimed at public sector leaders has found that adopting Integrated Reporting can have a positive impact on public organisations. Whilst universities don’t strictly fit the bill, there’s much in the report that’s applicable to HE, and it makes interesting reading whether or not your organisation has decided to work towards the framework.

Independent research undertaken for the report found that 92% of public sector leaders at organisations that had implemented Integrated Reporting said that it “increased understanding of performance and value creation at leadership level and employee level, as well as with the growing external stakeholder base”, while 87% said that “providers of financial capital better understood their strategy” as a result.

For those who are wondering about the process of implementing Integrated Reporting, the report also includes case studies, which follow the journey of three different organisations. And remember that the BUFDG report on Integrated Reporting in universities, published earlier this year, and which introduces the topic with an abridged but HE-specific framework, is available to download from the BUFDG website. 

Procurement and Brexit... Emma Keenan

Whilst there has been much talk around what might happen post-Brexit with regard to procurement, the one thing that is clear is that nothing will change for now. Over the past number of weeks I have read many articles and listened to a number of speakers outlining the possibilities, giving opinion and discussing change. This article from Achilles sums up what I believe to be the correct view in a concise and easy-to-read document. We will continue to monitor the news from procurement, economic and legal professionals and keep you updated with relevant and appropriate information. 

Tax Group Changes and Vacancies Amanda Darley

Neil Scott has stepped down as Chair of the Tax Group, and James Lacey, Director of Finance from Nottingham Trent University has taken over the reins. Thanks to Neil for his help over the last couple of years, and good luck to James - we're looking forward to working with you. We have also filled our Corporation Tax Specialist vacancy on the group - many thanks to Jeff Kirkham, Group Tax Manager at the University of Bristol, for volunteering.

We're also saying goodbye to our VAT Specialist on the group, Andy Morgan, who has decided to take early retirement from the University of Birmingham. Many thanks to Andy for his contributions to the group. This means that we are now looking for someone to take on the role of VAT Specialist in the group - would you like to join us? If you'd like to put your name forward, or just find out more, then drop Amanda an email to arrange a chat. We're also looking for a new Chair for the South West region, so that our stalwart from the region, Roger Broughton from the University of the West of England, can step down after many years service. Again, if you're interested, please do drop Amanda a line to find out what's involved.

Phishing scams targeted at students Matt Sisson

Students are being targeted in a specific Phishing scam, according to an article on the BBC News website this week. In this particular instance, students are contacted with a fraudulent email, convincingly claiming to be from the university’s Finance Department, informing the student they are entitled to an educational grant or bursary. Upon clicking the link to claim, the student is then encouraged to divulge bank account details.

This follows on from a scam earlier in the year where Phishing attacks were used to obtain students’ university website details, which were then used to change bank details held with the university, in order to syphon off bursary payments.

Please continue to alert your students and staff to such attacks and, if you’re unsure how to respond, here’s a handy list of suggestions. 

Autumn Statement Date confirmed Amanda Darley

HM Treasury has announced that the Autumn Statement will be on 23rd November (just squeezing into autumn this year - unlike 2015). We'll see what Philip Hammond has in store for us in his first Autumn Statement and the first since the Brexit result.

CIPS Annual Conference – 20th October 2016 QEII Conference centre, London Emma Keenan

A new British PM, Brexit, legal upheaval, the robot revolution, commodity, exchange rate and stock market fluctuations… nothing is more permanent than change (is it? -Ed) and the procurement and supply management profession is the one to handle it all. 

Join the CIPS Annual Conference, on the 20th October, and find out how you can capitalise on all these changes and put procurement at the heart of your business.

Taking place in the heart of Westminster, at the prestigious QEII Centre, the conference will bring together leading experts from across the profession to help you successfully respond and adapt to a changing economic, legal and political landscape. You can find out the macro-economic outlook for the UK and Europe from the CIPS Economist and see what the future could hold for the profession in 2032. 

Book your place today to hear all the answers and make a step change in your own career.

Job of the Week Hayley Overton

The job of the week is for a Chief Financial Officer at Staffordshire University. "The successful candidate will have a proven successful track record of senior financial management in a large and complex organisation and be able to demonstrate an innovative and commercial approach to financial management, providing a catalyst for innovation". Closing date for applications is Wednesday 19th October. 


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