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15th November 2017

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HEPI report on the cross-subsidy of research by teaching Matt Sisson

There is a research funding deficit of £3.3billion in UK universities, according to a new report by HEPI published this week. The report, titled How much is too much? Cross-subsidies from teaching to research in British universities takes a look at the cross-subsidisation in universities and finds that each international student to the UK contributes around £8,000 to research on average. The report also finds that the UK is almost £25bn a year short of hitting the Conservative target of spending 3% of GDP on R&D.

According to HEPI Director Nick Hillman, there are three pressing issues: “First, those who fund university research – public and private funders as well as charities – do not cover anything like the full costs. Secondly, the cross-subsidy from tuition fees to research is probably not sustainable at current levels. Thirdly, the Government wants a near doubling in research and development spending as a share of GDP, yet recent funding injections are only enough to stand still.”

The report is covered by David Morris in Wonkhe, who makes a number of interesting points – not least that properly funding research would in turn free up further resources for improving teaching

Risk, trust, and regulation Matt Sisson

The Chief of Executive of the OfS, Nicola Dandridge has spoken to the Times Higher this week to urge universities to respond to the consultation on the new regulatory framework for HE. She said that it would be “utterly wrong” for universities to think that the consultation document represented a done deal, adding that “If we were going to turn ourselves into a regulator that was just going to dive in and take action without any foundation or context, that would be really worrying. That is not what we are doing… We are going to be transparent, risk based, thoughtful and intelligent, so we should be an organisation that institutions are comfortable engaging with”

While some are concerned with the additional regulatory powers outlined in the framework, the regulatory direction for EU grants appears to be heading in the other direction. From next year, the £70bn Horizon 2020 programme will pilot the complete removal of cost reporting, timesheets, and financial audits for some of its research funding, as part of a change from a “control-based to a trust-based” system, the Times Higher reports.

Universities will still need to be careful however. New research produced by CIPFA in conjunction with the accountancy firm Moore Stephens has found grant misspending to be the top public-sector fraud risk

Three fraud alerts, and other news Matt Sisson

In related news, there are a number of fraud developments to alert you to. Firstly, there has been an Action Fraud alert warning that individuals registering with job seeking websites or searching for jobs on The Student Room website are being contacted by bogus recruitment companies/businesses asking them to complete application and interview forms which request personal details and banking details, as well as copies of identity documents. The applicant may be invited along for interview, either in person or over the phone, to make the process look as legitimate as possible. Some job seekers, as well as divulging personal details, have paid money to the fraudsters to secure a bogus rental property alongside the job offer. Please warn your students of the potential risks of this activity, and drop Matt an email if you would like him to send you the alert in full.

Some individuals have been contacting university suppliers to fraudulently order goods, using fake ( or university email addresses. Please alert your suppliers to the potential risks.

A number of university students have suffered fraudulent credit card charges against their account, apparently from universities, but again where a fake email address is used.

As part of global fraud-awareness week, CIPFA has published 10 interesting articles on its website, covering a range of issues including internal fraud, tax fraud, counter-fraud strategies, and whistleblowing. A log-in is required but it is free to register.

A course that will help you get that next job (and other things) Matt Sisson

In case you missed it last week, we're promoting a number of courses at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama that help delegates vastly improve their ability to communicate in different scenarios. The courses take place from November to March, and as a BUFDG member you are entitled to a 20% discount. Don’t underestimate the value of these so called ‘soft skills’ - they are crucial for finance teams at all levels, and are readily recognised as a required skill for senior level appointments.  

  • The Creative Voice: Build a greater understanding of articulation, clarity, vocal power, pitch, pace and vocal nerves
  • The Creative Presenter: Discover how to incorporate performance practice, storytelling and actor training techniques into pitches and presentations
  • The Creative Communicator: Explore the art of building impact, influence and rapport in communication and one-to-one conversations
  • The Creative Facilitator: Discover innovative tools & techniques to lead facilitation and deliver training with creativity & impact
  • Step Up: A women only voice & communication course designed to help participants speak up, speak out and speak confidently about promotions, pay rises and appraisals  

To book, simply click on the relevant course link and add ‘BUFDG member’ to your booking to secure your 20% off. 

Responsible procurement in HE progresses at pace Emma Keenan

Demonstrating success in responsible procurement in HE is getting easier thanks to the growing number of dedicated professionals in the sector. Championed by the National Responsible Procurement Group, the topic is now being considered widely in institutions, and we always like to share information and good news on the subject:

The North West Universities Purchasing Consortium recently published another edition of its excellent newsletter ECOnnect. The e-newsletter focuses on sustainable practices and projects from across the NWUPC member and supplier base, includes a range of good news stories that demonstrate innovative and wide ranging practices.

The London Universities Purchasing Consortium shared with us its first Annual Report of the LUPC Responsible Procurement Advisory Group. This details the work of the team and sets out what it has achieved so far, as well as the plans for the future.

Finally, for all interested in Responsible Procurement, there's lots available on our website including the minutes from the meetings of the national group, the group terms of reference, the results of the responsible prcourement survey, and much more.

A reminder of our definition of Responsible Procurement. It:

  • seeks to build on and expand the scope of ‘ethical’ and ‘sustainable’ procurement to include environmental, economic, and social issues and their risks and benefits;
  • includes a range of considerations of equal or greater importance than profitability and the generation of value;
  • includes purchasing that minimises carbon emissions causing climate change, challenging the systems and industries driving it;
  • identifies, prevents and mitigates the risks of human rights abuses in the supply chain, including forced labour, child labour and human trafficking; and
  • recognises that these considerations are interconnected, and must be approached in their totality.

If you wish to share with us any information around your work on this subject, do get in touch.

TRAC Guidance webex for practitioners Matt Sisson

To support the implementation of the new TRAC Guidance (version 2.2), the TRAC Support Unit will host a WEBEX for TRAC Practitioners on Tuesday 21st Novemberat 10am, and lasting for around an hour. The Support Unit will explain the changes introduced and will provide an opportunity for you to ask any clarification questions. Further details will be sent out by the Support Unit in the next couple of days.

Click here to register for the event. Once you have registered, you will be provided with the information you need to join the conference, including dial-in numbers and passcodes. Be sure to save this information to your calendar or print this information. Please also note that the presentation part of the WEBEX will be recorded and made available for future use.

New opportunities for sharing and collaboration Matt Sisson

A new sector service launched this week, with the release of Konfer, a professional social network developed by the National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB) with the Research Councils (RCUK) and the Higher Education Funding Council for England (England). Konfer is described as a “innovation brokerage tool” that NCUB hopes will open up research, researchers and services in UK universities to businesses and other organisations looking for new ideas and collaborations.

At the launch David Sweeney, Director of Research and Knowledge Exchange at HEFCE and Executive Chair Designate of Research England, said: konfer promotes stronger commercialisation, business and policy links and wider societal engagement with publicly funded research. It opens out what universities and research institutes do to a wider audience and I’m delighted to see it reaching full launch stage following development work with universities and businesses of all sizes.”

Konfer gives direct access to 119,000+ academics, 15,000+ facility and equipment listings, 1.5m web pages, and 62,000+ YouTube videos from university channels, along with hundreds of thousands of news articles, events, and more.

It’s not yet clear whether Konfer will at some stage replace, but as soon as we find out we’ll let you know. 

Bank ring-fencing rules - have you heard from your bank? Matt Sisson

We’ve previously commented on the potential risks of the new bank ring-fencing rules. The rules were introduced in a bid to make the banking system safer for retail customers (including universities) following the financial crisis. The changes are to be enacted by 2019, and will see some of the largest banks split their retail and investment/global operations and strengthen balance sheets.

The impact of the ring-fencing on the Banks’ customers will be mixed. All banks have different corporate structures, business models, and exposure to risk, as well as different lawyers, and so will be affected by the rules in different ways. Some customers will see absolutely no change in service, and will not notice the ring-fencing. Others may have to prepare for things like a change in bank sort codes (and those of their suppliers), or even amending covenants.

Finalysis has published an update this week outlining the potential challenges it sees as a result of credit-rating changes to the non-ringfenced banks (NRFBs) that will be created as part of the changes. It also lists some questions that you should be asking your bank if you haven’t already.

So the message remains the same, if for some reason you haven’t yet heard from your bank about the changes, and about the impact they may have on your banking service, then do get in touch with them sooner rather than later. And please be aware that your payments teams may see an increase in the number of requests for changes to supplier sort codes. The same counter-fraud rules apply in any case – follow your processes, check, and then check again that these are not fraudulent.

Tax Group Meeting Minutes Published Amanda Darley

Minutes from the BUFDG national tax group meeting on 11 October have been publised on our website here. Topics discussed included the possibility of commissioning an HE-sector VAT analysis tool; Indian agents GST and overseas agents; SAE Education Ltd; IR35, National Minimum Wage; FRC gift aid accounting proposals; and CFA 2017, among others.

Big step for improving sustainability Matt Sisson

For any university wanting to improve its sustainability, here’s a great story from the University of Manchester: “Last week, we held our first ever awards ceremony to celebrate the responsible practices of our suppliers at The University of Manchester, as part of a major initiative to recognise and support businesses which want to work in more sustainable ways.

With an annual spend of £465m on goods and services, the university’s  central procurement office works with thousands of suppliers, ranging from local small and medium enterprises to multi-national corporations, and over the past few years has been increasingly using its influence to help these businesses to become more sustainable and socially responsible.

We shortlisted eight suppliers to attend the awards out of 1,400 that have registered with our NETPositive Supplier Engagement Tool. Stephen Dauncey, Director of Finance, The University of Manchester, said ‘Being socially responsible is at the heart of the University’s mission and through our suppliers we can have a powerful influence far beyond the confines of our campus, into the wider economy. I was really pleased to see so many of our suppliers attend the event last week and the number and quality of changes these businesses are making is truly inspiring’.

If you'd like to find out more, you can read more about the story here.

Job of the Week Matt Sisson

Our Job of the Week is for a Treasury Accountant at the University of the West of England. The successful candidate "will provide support in the overall financial management of cash flow and investments, with regular operating reports and long term forecasting". They will also "be responsible for the oversight of the Income Office, comprising of cashiering and credit control teams, providing reports to management in respect of cash and debtors and will manage the year end process in respect of accounting for cash and credit receipts". The deadline for applications is 22nd November. 

You can access lots of other vacancies via the BUFDG jobs listing page