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14th November 2018

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Communicating with investors (i.e. anyone who provides your income) Karel Thomas

Extended External Reporting and Integrated Reporting are probably the last things Finance Directors want to think about as their final Council and Court meetings, to sign off annual reports and accounts, get closer. But the demand for reporting that can be read and understood by more people is growing. "Major international corporate reporting standard setters and framework providers have  announced a ground-breaking new two-year project focused on driving better alignment in the corporate reporting landscape, to make it easier for companies to prepare effective and coherent disclosures that meet the information needs of capital markets and society" and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and PwC this week released Enhancing the credibility of non-financial information, "focused on what investors need in order to make decisions that consider non-financial information – that is, information outside of financial statements including environmental, social and governance (ESG) metrics." The HE sector could discount all this as irrelevant as rules for most universities are different from the corporate world, but to do so would ignore good practice and thinking. If any HE institution is thinking seriously about exploring Integrated Thinking and Reporting, AdvanceHE have launched a new programme, building on the success of this year's pilot project.

Providing financial information to students Matt Sisson

On a related theme, last week’s ‘leak’ from the Augur review of post-18 education and funding, containing as it did the words ‘tuition fee cut’, meant that other HE news took a back seat. On the same day the Education Select Committee released its report on Value for Money in Higher Education, which got a little lost in the news cycle. While it is unlikely that all of the committee’s recommendations on VfM will map onto the conclusions of the Augur review, the call for greater transparency over the costs and benefits of HE for students, as well as how universities ‘spend tuition fees’, is unlikely to be ignored.

Many HEIs already do much in this area, but few would say they have it completely sorted. This is something that could be left to marketing departments, but Finance input will lead to a more confident, and useful output. In reviewing what information you provide, there’s no shame in rephrasing from (or linking to) MoneySavingExpert’s excellent coverage of how the tuition fees system actually works, how much parents should save for their kids to go to university, and how students can work out a budget for themselves.

And if you want to throw in one or more of the six short BUFDG videos looking at the broader value of universities, then you are very welcome (and welcome to re-brand – drop Matt an email).

Upcoming MTD related webinars Amanda Darley

The Chartered Institute of Taxation and the Association of Taxation Technicians will be holding a webinar about Making Tax Digital on 20 November at 9:30-11am. There is no need to register in advance, but it is recommended that you check your system in advance using the webinar link. If you would like to submit a question in advance you can send it to technical@tax.org.uk or atttechnical@att.org.uk by 16 November.

And don't forget that two MTD software suppliers are providing webinars/demos for BUFDG members this Thursday (15 November):

  • To register for the Tax Automation (suppliers of VAT Controller) webinar at 11am on Thursday, sign up by emailing mail@taxautomation.co.uk, titling your email BUFDG VC Webinar, or via the contact form on their website - the webinar will provide an overview of the VAT Controller platform, with associated VATPack analysis workbooks, which 'offer a flexible and efficient solution, with the additional benefit of being a central repository for all VAT related data management, control and analysis', and
  • To register for the Tax Systems Plc (suppliers of AlphaVAT) demo at 3pm, sign up here - the webinar will include an overview and live demonstration of a Tax Systems' MTD digital end-to-end solution.

A Journey into Counter Fraud - New Blog: Part 2 Emma Keenan

So, after spending several hours trawling the internet and jumping around all kinds of topics (some more useful than others!), I decided there must be a starting point.  This point I think is a focus on training.  Educating all staff on the basics must be the best first sensible step any institution can make.  On the BUFDG website the free Introduction to Counter Fraud e learning can be accessed by anyone in a university and will arm each and every person with some key skills to identify where the risks are what to do about any suspicious behaviour.

Following that, the Universities who seem to be doing well in this area are those where they have a good reporting network. Creating an environment where colleagues can easily and safely report anything out of the ordinary to a specific person will mean, not only clear visibility of all unusual behaviour, but it will also encourage openness and discourage the potential for internal fraud.

I can see that BUFDG is already supporting the university sector by helping those affected by fraud to share their experiences.  The well-used discussion boards are available to all members and can be used to post information on new fraudulent activity (and remember you can also tick the box to remain anonymous if you'd like).They can also be used as a great source of information for past events.  The boards are searchable and almost all messages have a name attached so you can contact a peer directly to ask for their advice on the specific topic.

I found great information on the Fraud website pages here.  A flowchart for fraud theft, as well as a Toolkit which provides a policy detailing a typical University Fraud Response Plan are both excellent.  I hope to build on the resources available as well as ensure our material is always kept up to date.

International Fraud Awareness Week Emma Keenan

The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) describes itself as “The world’s largest anti-fraud organisation and premier provider of anti-fraud training and education”.  Each year it declares this week International Fraud Awareness Week and uses the time to highlight via its website a range of free resources and worldwide events taking place to raise highlight fraud related issues.

You may find the helpful free shareable videos useful to watch and disseminate in your institution – they explain some of the basics, like how money is laundered and what is identity theft, in a really simple way. Also, their great infographic illustrates really well 6 behavioural red flags which are almost always displayed by fraud perpetrators and can therefore be used to help organisations detect fraud and mitigate losses. If you have some time, it is well worth a look and will provide you with lots to think about and share in your institution.

Developing as a HE Finance Business Partner Rachel McLone

We have a couple of places left on our 'Developing as a Finance Business Partner in Higher Education' course taking place in December.  This course allows delegates to understand the role, realities, and competencies required of a HE Finance Business Partner, using real university examples. It will help you work more strategically, identify and practise ways to communicate with stakeholders and develop better relationships.  You will also work with a set of tools to develop and prioritise your activities, and will leave the session with a personal action plan to put into place on your return. Participants will:

  • Gain an understanding of the role of finance business partner within a Higher Education institution, illustrated with HE examples.
  • Explore the role and realities of the finance business partner, mapping current activities and competencies.
  • Identify ways to operate more strategically.
  • Identify strategies and behaviours for working and communicating with non-finance professionals across a large organisation.
  • Identify what it means to add value as a finance business partner and how to demonstrate value.
  • Work with a set of tools to plan and prioritise activity as a finance business partner.
  • Practise some key partnering skills including communicating the role confidently.

The course take place on Tuesday 18th December at Woburn House in London.  The course costs £350 (plus VAT) to attend.  For more details and to book onto the course, please click here.   For any queries, please contact Rachel.  

Procurement training opportunities Emma Keenan

A reminder that in conjunction with Achilles and the LUPC we are running several procurement courses in central London over the next few weeks which offer excellent training at a fantastic price. There are still some spaces available for the following dates:

Further courses and dates will be running around the country during the new year, I will get in touch with formal details as soon as they are available. If you have any questions, please do get in touch.

Universities develop cures for diseases and much more Karel Thomas

John Gill, editor of THE wrote last week, "Michael Barber, chair of the Office for Students, has penned an article in The Telegraph newspaper in which he says that universities which are struggling financially will not receive a bailout, since “it would be irresponsible to give more public money to people who are demonstrably unable to manage their institution in a sustainable way”. John goes on to suggest that mismanagement may not be the whole story of why a university might fail. It is this debate that would be more useful than inflammatory headlines and partially informed rhetoric in popular media. Michael Barber's carefully choreographed comms included an interview on the Today programme  and a speech and conversation at Wonkfest whose excellent live blog recorded, "[H]e closed with a challenge to university press offices – to tell the wider world what universities do and why." Dilly ding, dilly dong, as they used to say in Leicester. 

Finance for Non-Finance Managers - new course dates Rachel McLone

We have two new course dates for our popular Finance for Non Finance Managers course, taking place in London and Leeds.  This one day course gives non accountants a basic understanding of finance.  The course will provide an understanding of:

  • Financial reporting / budgeting / forecasting cycle
  • Jargon buster and key accounting concepts including capital/revenue/funding
  • Differences between management and statutory accounts
  • Key financial statements
  • Where university money comes from, and what it's spent on
  • Sources of information
  • Costing
  • Finance Department structures and how they link with other university functions
  • Importance of internal controls and audit
  • Basic financial ratios

The course costs £250 (incl VAT) to attend. To book your place, click here for the 22nd March in London and here for the 5th September in Leeds.  Please note, we are using a new BUFDG booking system and in order to book a place you will need to have a BUFDG user account set up.  If you haven’t yet signed up for your user account, you can do so by clicking here.  Once your account is approved, you can make your booking. For any queries, please contact Rachel.

EAUC webinar – Palm Oil and Biodiversity Emma Keenan

The use of Palm oil has been in the news again recently, some of you may have seen the controversial advert from the supermarket Iceland.  What you may not be aware of is an ongoing University of the West of England project which is exploring the current position of the university on palm oil and aims to create the first in-depth sustainable palm oil policy of any UK university.

The EAUC are running a webinar at 1030 on the 20th of November and are pleased to confirm that The UWE Students’ Union former Sustainability Officer Amy Staff and Assistant Vice Chancellor James Longhurst will delve into the story of palm oil, and will discuss how HEI’s across the UK can be supported to implement their own sustainable palm oil policy.

The webinar is open to all (Non EAUC members can create a temporary account), is free and can be booked here.   If you are unable to make the date/time, the webinar will be recorded, and we will share a link to that as soon as it is available.

Job of the week Jemma Ladkin

This week’s job of the week is for a Director of Finance at Plymouth Marjon University. The successful candidate will be a “member of the Senior Management team and hold responsibility for the operational and strategic management of finance within the University, effective treasury management and completion of accurate statutory and regulatory financial returns in line with accounting standards, audit and external requirements”. 

“You will be a fully qualified CCAB Accountant with sustainable experience at a senior level in a similar environment. You will also have a proven track record of leadership and management including the ability to motivate staff”.

The closing date for this role is the 3rd December 2018. There are lots of other vacancies listed as usual on the BUFDG website.

 

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