Understanding Finance > A new guide to understanding HE finance


Monday, 28th November, 2020

A guide to Understanding University Finance

BUFDG today launch an accessible new guide, Understanding University Finance, to be a companion for all university stakeholders when reading university annual reports and financial statements, or communicating about HE finance. The guide builds on the 2011 publication An Insider’s Guide to Finance and Accounting in Higher Education that was published jointly by number of sector bodies including BUFDG.

Karel Thomas, Executive Director of BUFDG said:

“Universities are complex and unique organisations. No other kind of organisation comes close to the variety and scale of universities’ educational, entrepreneurial, charitable, and social activity. Having a unique place in the world requires an unusual business model, that facilitates such a wide range of operations. It also requires a unique way of accounting for how universities generate and spend their income and create value for all their stakeholders.

It is a topic that is little- or often mis-understood. Yet, in the current climate of competition, funding challenges, and political uncertainty, it is more important than ever that stakeholders understand their university’s finances. We hope that this guide plays a part in improving this understanding and, in the process, will see our universities on a strong financial footing and run and governed effectively.”

Understanding University Finance will be accompanied by two supplementary guides to Accounting for Pensions in Higher Education Institutions and to Tax in Higher Education, to be launched in the spring.

Download Understanding University Finance



1.       Any feedback or queries should be directed to Matt Sisson, Head of Membership, BUFDG, at matt@bufdg.ac.uk, or 01509 228852.

2.       The main author of Understanding HE Finance is Simon Perks, Director of Sockmonkey Consulting. Supplementary input on pensions was provided by Alan Crowe, Senior Manager, Deloitte LLP. BUFDG is immensely grateful for the dozens of other contributors, in universities and across the broader sector, who played a role in shaping the tone and content of the report.  

3.       The guide will be updated in 2020 to reflect updates to the terminology used in next year’s financial statements onwards, and in response to feedback.






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