05th March 2014
We are delighted to announce that Amanda Darley, currently VAT Manager at the University of Oxford has been appointed as the BUFDG Tax Specialist and will join the team at the end of June. Amanda is an experienced tax manager and is looking forward to using her knowledge of tax and higher education for the benefit of the whole BUFDG membership. We are grateful to John Huke and Rob Williams for training Amanda so well for this post and hope that they will, in time, forgive us for recruiting her. We are looking forward to welcoming Amanda to the team.
HEFCE review of sector finances
The 2014 HEFCE review of university and college finances has been published this week, and sees a mixed picture across the sector. Whilst HEFCE “concludes that the higher education sector in England was in sound overall financial health in 2012-13, and will remain so in 2013-14… the forecasts for 2013-14 do not reflect further significant funding reductions announced in the Government’s grant letter to HEFCE in February 2014”.
The sector reported operating surplus at 3.9% of income for 12/13, with “strong cash balances and healthy reserve levels”. However, the new requirements on institutions to include pension scheme liabilities on their balance sheets are likely to significantly affect positions. In addition, whilst the sector forecasts a considerable increase in capital infrastructure spend, from £2,646 million in 2012-13 to £3,861 million, HEFCE warns that “this growth may not be sustainable without continued government support and market confidence”.
The funding council also sees potential threats in the slowdown in growth of the international student market, as well as from the expected volatility as a result of the government’s decision to remove the student number cap from 2015/16. There’s a round-up of the review in the Times Higher, with the full report available here.
March Tax Digest
The world of tax continues to turn, and Harriet, Kerry and the Tax group have produced a Tax Digest for March to help the rest of us keep up. The update includes updates on VAT for sporting facilities, overseas agents, and cost-sharing agreements, as well as news on the corporation tax guidelines (incl. treatment under FRS102) and Real-time Information (RTI). Also in the update is news on the 2014 Tax Conference in Leicester on the 11th and 12th June – bookings will open around Easter time.
Lastly, if you are planning to build student accommodation, have done so in the last 10 years, and have relied on the concessionary “break in stay” treatment, then the tax group would like to hear from you. Read the digest to find out how you can help.
BUFDG Briefing 2: HEIs and Tax
Following last month’s publication of the first issue of a new ‘BUFDG Briefing’ series (covering Managing fraud and risks in construction projects), we’re happy to announce the publication of the second briefing this week, on HEIs and Tax, written by Harriet. It uses non-technical language, and is written in a way that hopefully proves clear and accessible to those who aren’t tax experts. It’s aimed at anyone involved in the management, leadership, or governance in HEIs. It hopes to see more university managers asking ‘the tax question’: that the implications of tax treatment are considered as core to any university projects and undertakings, rather than an afterthought, in order to ensure project success. The guide includes insight on VAT, overseas activity, property taxes, payroll taxes, and subsidiary companies.
The guide says; “Universities can benefit from a very favourable tax regime – but as always, good housekeeping and caution when undertaking new activities is essential to demonstrate compliance and avoid bear traps!” Find out what steps you can take by downloading the briefing here.
In related news, if you would like a hard copy of the previous briefing “Managing fraud and risks in construction projects”, then please let us know. The briefing contains tips on some of the potential risks your project may face – and key controls you should be sure to have in place.
Procurement Journey begins
The Higher Education Procurement Academy has launched a new resource, the Procurement Journey, which is a comprehensive 'how to' guide to procurement. Aimed at procurement professionals and wider institutional buyers, it includes a wealth of useful materials, standardised documentation, up-to-date legislation information, and references to appropriate external advice websites. It is also suitable for other budget holders required to procure goods and services, and there are simplified processes, templates and guidance to support individuals with authority to procure lower value, lower risk procurements.
To access the Journey, visit www.hepa.ac.uk/procurement-journey. Most BUFDG members can access it using their BUFDG website username and password. If you can't log in, then let Dan know and he'll activate your account.
PwC report and new website
PwC has launched a new SORP and FRS 102 mini-site this week, Similar but not the same. It pulls together all their SORP expertise in one spot, and includes a handy overview. It summarises the changes, when they will affect HEIs, and what action you'll need to take to accommodate them. “As the transition date is less than a year away, it's important to begin thinking about this issue now and realise that the new SORP is similar but not the same”. For more information, email John Berriman at PwC.
Also available from PwC is a report called Leading From the Front: Finance in the Public Sector that examines “trends, issues and the changing environment faced by finance directors”, much of which is relevant to HE. The chapter on “Balancing competing demands” for example covers the efficiency agenda of expecting “even more” for “even less”, whilst the chapter on “The importance of people”, identifies people management strategies and soft skills as “essential ingredients of success”.
Breaking down barriers to sustainable procurement
The CIPS Sustainability Index (CSI) is an independent and academically researched supplier sustainability tool, first launched in April last year.
Why is CSI a big deal? Well, supply chains are now longer and more integrated than ever before. This means buyers need to know their suppliers to help them manage supply chain risk. Suppliers receive questionnaires from buyers asking for all sorts of background info. Many of the questions are standard across an industry. To prove their credentials, suppliers end up being asked by their buyers to answer the same questions in different ways. The CIPS Sustainability Index asks the common set of economic, environmental and social questions that buyers need information on, reviews those questions and provides a scoring that's independent, easy to understand and in a way that brings huge efficiencies to the whole supply chain.
CSI has been developed by CIPS partners, PRGX, and is supported by the rigor of years of academic research by the University of the West of England (UWE). We know it's fit for purpose as CSI has been designed in conjunction with over 20 key and diverse industry mentors including the Department of Work and Pensions, BAA, Centrica, the Southern Universities Purchasing Consortium (SUPC) and Arup.
This tool can be of great benefit to HEI’s so please visit the site to find out more.
And there's more
The UUK International Unit has produced a handy web-based bulletin on European funding and the opportunities for HEIs. Recently updated for March, it includes a summary of current programmes, a look at future programmes, a breakdown of their objectives, information on how HEIs might access funding, and a summary table of open calls for proposals and tenders. It also has a useful round-up of related news. Take a look here.
THELMAs—Call for Entries - The Times Higher Education Leadership Awards (THELMAs), which celebrate extraordinary innovation, teamwork and commercial acumen of UK higher education institutions, are currently accepting submissions for all award categories including: Outstanding Procurement Team, Outstanding Finance Team and Outstanding Estates Team. If you think your team has made an outstanding contribution to your institution in one of these areas, be sure to enter prior to 9 March 2014.
The Office for National Statistics has released a Migration Statistics Quarterly Report, which indicates an overall increase in student visa applications. The figures show a drop in migrants from India and Pakistan coming to the UK to study, but an increase in the overall number of student visas issued. The THE reports on the statistics.
The N8 Research Partnership is to “lead a workstrand focused on asset-sharing, as part of the next phase of work on efficiency and effectiveness in universities”, led by Universities UK. N8 has also developed an Equipment Sharing Toolkit, which aims to tackle “operational issues” caused by universities sharing research equipment.
Universities UK’s board has approved Regent’s University London's membership application. The University is the second private institution to be admitted to Universities UK after University of Buckingham. Aldwyn Cooper, Regent’s Vice-Chancellor, said: “We particularly look forward to working with UUK’s members and sharing our unique and internationally focused perspective.”
Professor Mary Beard from the University of Cambridge has raised concerns about using Moocs as a replacement for more traditional forms of learning. Professor Beard told BBC Radio 4, “I think we are in danger of confusing the dissemination of knowledge with education.”
In the Guardian, Peter Scott speculates about the longer-term strategy of Government, following the 2015/16 removal of the student number cap. Scott describes the cap removal as a “prelude” to removing the cap on tuition fees, which could result in a “small number of winners… a (large) squeezed middle that will be able to charge high fees for some, but not all of their courses; and a growing number of, predominantly for-profit, private providers owned – ultimately if not straightaway – by hedge funds and global media corporations offering low-cost ‘higher education’”.
An article from financialdirector.co.uk discusses the importance of procurement officers matching technical competencies with “soft skills”. Learie Attzs, former supply chain capabilities director at Unilever, says this will make people “appreciate the role of procurement, making [procurement officers] the go-to people in the business, as their outward- and inward-facing knowledge and experience is unique.”
Katie Harrison from University Alliance has discussed the important contribution of universities towards the green agenda: “In the best cases universities are becoming beacons for sustainability, providing shining examples to other large organisations in the private and public sector.”
Finally, the BUFDG job of the week is Director of Finance at the University of Winchester. More vacancies can be found on the BUFDG jobs page.