29th October 2014

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Court Circular Karel Thomas

Congratulations to Julie Charge, who has been appointed as the permanent Finance Director at the University of Salford, taking over David Reeve's office as he leaves his interim (sic) role after 2+ years. Best wishes to David as he has a rest before his next interim assignment! 

After 9 years at the University of West London, Helen Turner has announced that she is retiring at the end of March 2015. Helen has been a stalwart supporter of BUFDG and we will miss her, but there will be opportunities to thank her in person at the BUFDG conference at Lancaster (12th-14th April 2015) and the next London regional meeting at City University, London on 5th February 2015 - this is the one in the year where colleagues from the South-West region join to swell the ranks, so make sure it's in your diary.

Update: Subsidiary Company Gift Aid Payments Amanda Darley

Further to the article on Gift Aid in last week's Digest, we have received a number of questions about the content of Harriet’s note. Harriet prepared the note as an overview guide to when and how a problem could arise. In her usual upbeat style(!), Harriet suggested that this issue should not affect the 2014 accounts.

However, from the additional information we received yesterday, it seems that ICAEW are due to issue a statement on their revised position very shortly, maybe as early as next week – and that at least some of the accounting firms may have had sight of this in advance (although they are unable to share it). This means that if your subsidiary companies are affected by this change in interpretation, and the 2014 accounts have not been signed, then your auditors may require that you take some remedial action in respect of Gift Aid payments made in the current and/or prior years before they will approve the 2014 accounts. It does also seem than in some limited circumstances, these accounting adjustments could result in an unexpected corporation tax liability.

Once BUFDG has sight of the ICAEW guidance, we will contact HMRC in order to work with them to try to mitigate any impact for our members. We will keep you updated on this issue as it progresses, but please get in touch with Amanda if you would like to provide any information to raise with HMRC.

The future of JISC Matt Sisson

HEPI have published a report written by JISC Chair Martyn Harrow, on the potential obstacles for JISC during the transition from a centrally-funded model to a university subscription-based one. JISC: a hidden advantage for higher education sees a particular challenge in convincing individual institutions as well as policymakers of the value that JISC generates. The Efficiency Exchange has a summary of the report, and THE has also published a full interview with Martyn as he discusses the future of the charity.

The THE reports that “Under the new funding model, about 20 per cent of Jisc’s costs will be met directly by subscribing higher education institutions. The rest will still be met by its core investors, including the funding councils. From 2014 to 2017, subscription is mandatory, but after that institutions may be allowed to decide whether or not to continue to pay towards the package of products and services.”

For those worried about the implications of the Jisc Cost-Sharing Group, in the Summer our Tax Specialist Amanda met with Mark Wright of Jisc to discuss aspects of the CSG and to get some clarity in some practical areas. A summary of the various pieces of information is available on the BUFDG website.

English HEI surpluses could fall by a quarter over next three years Matt Sisson

English HEIs could see sector surpluses fall from 3.9% to 3% over the next three years, according to the latest Financial Health of the HE Sector report, published by HEFCE. The analysis covers the financial forecasts for the period 2013-14 to 2016-17, and provides an overview of the financial health of the HEFCE-funded higher education sector in England. The report also finds that “Cash flow from operating activities and liquidity levels is also expected to be lower, at 7.5 per cent of total income and 114 days respectively (compared with 8.3 per cent and 123 days reported in 2012-13)”.

Whilst HEFCE “projections indicate that the sector will be financially stable in the forecast period”, it warns that “the sector also expects its liquid funds to fall from £7.4 billion as at 31 July 2013 to £5.5 billion as at 31 July 2017”, and “expects borrowing to increase from £6.2 billion at the end of July 2013 to £8.3 billion by the end of July 2017". It concludes that the trend is "not sustainable in the long term”.

There’s also a brief round-up on the HEFCE news pages

Open access publishing Matt Sisson

A few weels ago we circulated an excellent briefing from JISC on Open Access publishing. It aimed to help finance staff understand the changing costs under the new regime, how these will affect the budgets of library, research office and other institutional units, and how the costs can be offset. The briefing also contained links to other JISC projects and resources on Open Access that will be of particular interest to finance teams.

This week the Guardian have published a blog on Open Access, as the understanding of how the system will work in practice continues to develop. It includes viewpoints from a number of different commentators, and is a quick and interesting read

A pan-European pension fund for researchers Matt Sisson

The European Commission has recently launched RESAVER (Retirement Savings Vehicle for European Researchers) in order to assist internationally mobile researchers to manage their pension provision better while moving between different EU employers. HEIs are invited to consider whether this option might be appropriate for their international research staff. Any HEIs that wish to express an interest and learn more about the scheme at this early stage should contact Emelda Conroy, Head of Pensions Policy at UCEA.

Further details can be found on the UCEA website.

New SLC courses management service Matt Sisson

From the Student Loans Company;

The SLC is introducing a new course and provider database, and management service that will meet the new arrangements introduced for student finance. It will replace the existing system available on the SLC’s HEI Services Portal. The new service will provide strengthened designation, security and anti-fraud measures and give flexibility to implement future policy change. It will link to the Student Finance application process with a simplified course structure making it easier for students to find their course when they apply.

SLC requires institutions to have entered their course information by the end of December 2014. It is asking institutions to plan ahead for this work to ensure they meet this deadline, so that accurate courses data is in place for students applying for finance early in 2015. Once populated, this new database and service will reduce the data requirements from institutions for future years.

Please support the service by ensuring your staff have attended the awareness sessions and have allocated time to input the new courses data. Further information is available on the dedicated Courses Management Services page on the HEP Services website http://www.heiinfo.slc.co.uk

Stephen Avery (City University FD) is the BUFDG representative on the Stakeholder Forum and Rod Peet (University of York Deputy FD) is the representative on the Stakeholder Operations Group. 

Uniac Forum Matt Sisson

Uniac are hosting a forum on the 18th November at Manchester Metropolitan University. The forum is for audit committee members and senior management to share and debate emerging topical issues in HE governance, to form opinions and to hear about the latest sector developments from your peers and HE experts. It also provides an excellent opportunity to network, meet senior representatives from other institutions, from the funding bodies and internal audit professionals. Speakers include James Paterson, Risk and Assurance Limited, Ian Parry, HEFCE and Paul Smith, Student Loans Company.  Places are limited.  If you wish to reserve a place please contact Angela Gilchrist on 0161 237 1174 by 31st October. Further details are available on this flyer

Bits and bobs Matt Sisson

Early applications for university dentistry, medical, veterinary courses, and for Oxbridge are down 5% this year according to UCAS statistics. This equates to 2,020 fewer applications than in 2014. Applications from the EU and International Students for the same courses are up 2% so far. 

The Institute of Economic Affairs has published a report calling for the end of the current loan system, replacing it with a 'levy on future earnings', paid back directly to the university. The BBC reports that the proposals could "improve value for money for students, because, with a direct interest in the future income of their students, universities would invest time and money in helping them do well in the jobs market." Million+ is opposed to the idea, saying that "Higher education provides a range of benefits for society and the economy beyond the earnings of individuals. It is right that taxpayers have a significant stake in what universities do and that the state should be the lender for students". The report's author, Peter Ainsworth, defends the report with an article in the Guardian

The HE sector in Northern Ireland is facing cuts of up to 15%, and may have to reduce undergraduate places in order to cope, according to an article in the THE. The paper reports that "Queen’s University Belfast and the University of Ulster have already been forced to make multi-million pound savings during this financial year and now face further reductions because the executive’s failure to strike a deal on implementing welfare reforms continues to cost it dearly".

A new report from the Institute of Fiscal Studies suggests that cuts to the National Scholarship Programme will exacerbate the disparities in student support offered by different universities. The average amount of financial support offered to students from poorer backgrounds has also dropped 7% for the 2014 cohort compared to the year before. The report says that "as the NSP is to be abolished from 2015 onwards, the ability and obligation of less research-intensive universities to provide financial support will be diminished. The most likely outcome is therefore that financial support will become even more focused on highly-qualified entrants who study at research-intensive universities".

The Guardian reports that student borrowing in Scotland has jumped 69% in a year to £430million. The average student debt was £5,020, but the heaviest burden was "being carried by the poorest students after ministers cut overall spending on grants for living costs from £53m to £36m last year. The average loans taken out by students from the lowest income families averaged out at £5,610 a year, compared to £4,340 for students from better off homes".

University Alliance has appointed a new Chief Executive, Maddalaine Ansell, who will take up the post in the new year. She formerly held a number of appointments in BIS, the Home Office, and with the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit. She also worked on the HE White Paper for the then Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts. Steve West, University of the West of England vice-chancellor and University Alliance chair, said that with Ms Ansell at the helm the group would “deliver an ambitious and transformational agenda for our innovative and entrepreneurial universities over the next five years”.

Our Job of the Week for this week is for a Planning Analyst at the University of West London. All other vacancies are listed on the BUFDG jobs page. In addition, APUC have vacancies for a number of Procurement Managers. Details can be found on the APUC website.

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