22nd February 2017
Apprenticeship Levy in the Devolved Regions
Information about the apprenticeship levy in Scotland can be found here, with a link to the Scottish government's response to the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy, published in December. The Scottish Government has committed to expanding the Modern Apprenticeship programme as growth continues towards 30,000 new apprenticeship starts each year by 2020, increasing the number of Graduate Level and Foundation Apprenticeships during 2017-18 and continuing with the implementation of the Youth Employment Strategy: Developing the Young Workforce. In Autumn 2017, the Scottish Government will also establish a new £10 million Workforce Development Fund to help employers train (and re-train) their workforce. Employers, through the Scottish Apprenticeship Advisory Board, will play a key role in shaping this fund.
The Welsh Government has recently updated this information on apprenticeships in Wales, and Business Wales has published this document covering apprenticeships and the apprenticeship levy for Wales, which includes a Q&A section, although at present this states that the 'Welsh Government is in the process of bringing forward new policy that will support the needs of employers in priority areas across Wales, regardless of their levy status… We have set up a team of advisors who are able to support employers in determining the impact of the levy and the training options available.'
The Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland consulted on the use of the Apprenticeship Levy in December. It doesn't appear that the outcome of this consultation has been published yet, but in advance of the consultation the Northern Ireland Finance Minister concluded that 'the Levy is of no benefit to our budget' and the Economy Minister called it 'bad news for Northern Ireland public and private sector organisations with a pay bill of over £3million' in a press release.
For all devolved regions, do also note that Grant Thornton has confirmed to us that if you are a non-English employer but you have employees in England, you can still register for the Digital Apprenticeship Service (now live) and there is scope to draw down some of your levy funds based on those employees residing in England. (Although the registered training providers will only be based in England).
Digital Apprenticeship Service is live
The Skills Funding Agency ('SFA') has launched the Digital Apprenticeship Services ('DAS'), so you can now register your university (and subsidiary companies - don't forget that if the university has to pay it, your connected companies will have to pay the levy too as it basically applies to the entire corporate group - details in this general levy guidance from HMRC, last updated on 1 February). The SFA has also launched this handy 2-minute video to help explain how the DAS works. The DAS will enable you to see the balance in your digital account (from the end of May), add or amend information about apprentices and training, authorise payment to the training provider, view payment activity in your account, view your balance and pause or stop a payment to your training provider.
For those in the devolved regions - Grant Thornton has confirmed to us that if you are a non-English employer but you have employees in England, you can register for the DAS and there is scope to draw down some of your levy funds based on those employees residing in England. (Although the registered training providers will only be based in England). This may work well if you have, for example, a London campus.
Payroll fraud, and working with your IT team
Two weeks ago we alerted readers to a significant fraud risk involving a phishing email that asked recipients to update or confirm their university intranet HR / Bank details. The details provided were then used to divert payroll to fraudulent accounts. We provided full details on the fraud discussion boards. The fraud has recently gained the attention of the National Fraud Investigation Bureau (NFIB) who, among other suggestions, have advised universities to “prompt all staff and students to change any password associated with their university email/IT accounts. Due to potential data breaches, it is recommended that universities discuss with the IT departments about issuing a mandatory password reset for all users”.
It's clear that with many fraud types there is significant overlap between IT, Finance, and other professional university departments. Since this fraud first broke, we’ve had contact from a number of university IT teams asking us for access to the BUFDG alert service, which we’ve been happy to provide. If you know of an IT colleague who would be interested in receiving the alerts or that, for purposes of making your counter-fraud role easier, it would be helpful to have them on the list, then please let Matt know and we’ll add them to the system.
Other alerts, and being prepared
In related news, some fraudulent emails that colleagues have reported to me suggest that staff email/identity fraud is still doing the rounds. These feature apparently legitimate emails from known staff, but with slightly unusual requests. The three most typical variations are:
- An email from a V-C or other senior staff, which looks genuine, but on closer inspection may be from an incorrect email address (so TheVC@university-ac.uk, rather than TheVC@university.ac.uk). This might ask for a payment to be made immediately to a provided bank account.
- An email from the purchasing team, which again looks genuine, but again may be from a faked email address, trying to place orders for goods or services to be delivered to addresses you don’t use, and for goods you probably don’t need.
- You might receive invoices for items you haven’t ordered. Which may or may not be preceded by a phone call (even from “the police!”).
There is of course a common response for all of these frauds. If you receive any enquiries from suppliers or university of staff that involve requests that sound in any way unusual, strange, or simply not quite right, let your counter-fraud champion know immediately and they can action appropriately.
Of course the best preventative action is to ensure that all staff are aware of fraud risks. Fortunately, we’ve just made the BUFDG counter-fraud e-learning open-source, which means you can take the e-learning package, edit it to your hearts content, and install it on your own institutional VLE for all your staff to use (for free!). If you’d like to take advantage of this, drop our L&D Manager Rachel an email.
And one more...
...hot off the press. Several universities have received phone calls from people purporting to be from energy/utility companies, and asking the university for invoice details "as they have a problem with their system". In one instance, when prompted to provide further details, the caller became vague, which signalled all was perhaps not as it seemed. A follow-up phone call to the utility company in question then confirmed systems were fine, and the call was fraudulent. Please let your staff know not to provide any invoice details to unconfirmed callers, as these will then be used to make more probing, realistic calls that could result in changed supplier details, or to undertake more convincing frauds.
The Good, The Bad and the Ugly!
Insurance can be a dynamic profession to be a part of, however sometimes within the education sector it can throw up all manner of chaos and challenges! The great news is there are experts within the university, insurance and legal sectors to assist and provide support for our needs and many of them will be at the National Conference for Insurance Managers in Higher Education on 22 & 23 June 2017. The event will take place at the 4* Weetwood Hall Conference Centre and Hotel in Leeds – Booking before 31st March will entitle you to the early bird discount of £260, which covers the full two day one night stay with a conference dinner and lunch. The programme can be viewed here. To book please click here.
HE Bill, TEF, Private Providers
If you’ve struggled to follow the recent debates around the HE Bill and the TEF, then we often point readers to the excellent Wonkhe website, which this week has added some insight on the OfS (courtesy of the Commons appearance of proposed OfS chair, Michael Barber), to recent articles on the TEF, including our favourite ‘Incredible Machine’ diagram. Of course amendments are still being filed the Bill in the Lords, where further opposition is promised, and so it could still be that the Bill we end up with looks somewhat different to the one originally presented in the Commons.
If you want to understand more about the ideological opposition in the Lords, then usual FT columnist Martin Wolf’s article in the Times Higher this week is well worth a read. In Why Universities are Not Supermarkets he outlines, in no uncertain terms, the flaws he sees in the current proposals. One sentence in particular is quotable; “Anybody who thinks this will end with more diverse, more innovative, more courageous and more independent institutions is simply a fool.”
In related news, the Guardian HE Network takes a look at the concerns for the element of the HE Bill that encourages the increase in the number of new ‘Private Providers’ of HE.
Regional Tax Group Meetings
Both the Scotland/Northern Ireland and South West regional tax group meetings have now been arranged so you can book yourself a place at the following regional meetings by clicking the links below:
- Midlands - The Link Hotel, Loughborough - 8 March
- Scotland - University of Edinburgh - 17 March
- South West - RSM office, Bristol - 23 March
- London - Imperial College - 19 May
- Wales - Date & Venue TBC but likely to be late March
Please note that the Northern group meeting took place on 10 February.
2017 Water Retail Market – TEC can help you!
The Energy Consortium (TEC) is made up of energy experts and procurement professionals. It is a Contracting Authority owned by its members, and it delivers services in energy procurement, risk and cost management, and data reporting on a not for profit basis. TEC has today issued a news article for its members on how it has been working hard towards a procurement solution to help with a route to market. Read it here.
Finance for Non-Finance Managers Course
BUFDG is running a ‘Finance for Non-Finance Managers’ course on May 4th. This is in response to feedback that a number of HEI’s would find such a course useful for staff new to finance or those who support the finance function. The course will give a basic understanding of finance in universities, including financial reporting, jargon, costings and basic financial ratios. The course will be delivered by internal experts, Liz Welch (The University of Edinburgh) and Karen Sinclair (Queen Margaret University).
Joint SUPC and LUPC conference
LUPC and SUPC will be hosting a joint Conference & Exhibition, free for their Members to attend, on Wednesday 24th May 2017 in central London. Budget-holders from across Procurement, Finance, Estates, IT, Laboratories, Libraries, Professional Services and wider departments are all welcome to attend. Delegates can expect a content-packed programme covering diverse topics such as the impact of Brexit on procurement, managing commodity price risks, modern slavery and soft skills. Delegates will also have the opportunity to attend a selection of Member-led case studies.
Attendees can also meet 60 approved suppliers to consortia agreements in our exhibition, network with other buyers and consortia category managers, and enjoy a complimentary drink in the newly refurbished County Hall venue. LUPC members can read more about the Conference here, and SUPC members, here.
Job of the Week
This week's Job of the week is for a Payroll Supervisor at the University of Kent. The successful applicant will have "overall responsibility for managing the monthly payment of salaries and wages to members of staff and for the correct deduction of employee income tax, National Insurance contributions and pension contributions from staff salaries". The closing date for applications is Monday 6th March.
In addition, there are three procurement vacancies at the University of Warwick. The first is for an Insurance Services Manager, responsible for the assessment, placement and negotiation of insurances and other alternative risk transfer measures, and providing a professional service to the University community on all insurance related issues. The other two roles are for fixed term contracts for a Senior Purchasing Manager (Maternity Cover) and Purchasing Manager. Both posts will be responsible for leading category strategies and delivering procurement best practice across a defined portfolio of spend, driving best value for money in support of the University’s Procurement strategy. Closing dates for these roles is 15th March 2017.
If you have a job you would like to advertise on the BUFDG site, please email Hayley with the link and she will be happy to add it for you.