19th April 2017

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Court Circular Karel Thomas

There has been a flurry of announcements of moves over the past couple of months, so to summarise, we are pleased to congratulate Rob Williams (Oxford) on his appointment as CFO at Cardiff, Daniel Benham (Aberystwyth) on his appointment as Director of Finance at UCLAN and Caroline Harrison (Middlesex) on her appointment at Richmond, The American University in London. There are also interim FDs at a number of universities and you may have been contacted by executive search agents about the permanent appointments. We are often asked for recommendations of colleagues who might be looking for a move, so if you fall into that category, let us know and indicate whether you would like us to pass your name on - discretion is guaranteed.

BUFDG Conference Karel Thomas

This year’s conference was like none other in living memory – for all the right reasons. We know it is highly unlikely that a conference will ever please everyone on every level, but we have had so many emails and messages saying good things about this year’s event, “Telling the Finance Story”, that we feel we might be getting close. We are not resting on our laurels though and ideas are already coming to the surface for Hull 2018. Everyone played a part in the event at Bath – the hosts, the invited speakers, delegates, sponsor delegates, Platinum and Gold Sponsors, dinner table hosts, buddies, the BUFDG team and of course, the twelve brave Finance Directors who told their story. It takes nearly a year to plan such a good event and much of the success is thanks to Assured Events, who make it look so easy. Thank you all for giving us many more stories to tell and the inspiration to try something different. As our last speaker, Tim Harford, spoke about marginal gains versus gamechanging ideas, we reflected that the 2017 conference was a gamechanger. This probably means other BUFDG events need to cover the technical aspects of being a Finance Director in Higher Education and we will be working hard with with you to deliver what you want and need.

The short highlights video from this year’s event is available here.

The HE Bill and the General Election Matt Sisson

The big news this week is of course yesterday’s General Election announcement which, provided the vote goes through parliament today as expected, will see the election take place on the 8th June. While the impact of the announcement on the legislative programme is yet unknown, the dissolution of parliament prior to the six-week electioneering period means that the already squeezed timescales for legislation are shaken up by pre-election politicking. What this means for the troubled HE Bill – still yet to face its toughest test in the Commons – is anyone’s guess.

The Times Higher believe the Bill is under threat of effectively being abandoned, and similar thoughts are expressed by Wonkhe deputy editor David Morris, although his expectations lean towards the Bill being rushed through in the next few weeks. A blog post by HEPI is less ‘optimistic’, and suggests that the government must make some sizeable concessions in order to see the Bill passed, in any form, at all. Time will tell.

BUFDG Annual Report 2017 Matt Sisson

Also at conference last week, our 2017 Annual Report was presented to the AGM. The report is different to all our previous ones; it has been compiled using many of the principles of Integrated Reporting (IR). This means that it doesn’t just talk about the numbers, or list achievements. Rather it’s a holistic report that looks at how all the different resources in an organisation (what the IR framework calls ‘Capitals’) impact on each other. In short, the report is about how BUFDG works, as well as what it does, and about how it is set up in a sustainable manner to create value in the long-term. We hope that you’ll find it an interesting read, and that from it you’ll gain a fair view of the work that BUFDG does, and the value that it adds to its members and the wider sector.

One of the features of Integrated Reporting is that it’s a process that requires changes to (or the introduction of!) strategic decision making and integrated thinking throughout the year. It means that even in the most flexible and adaptive organisations it can take a few years to get right. So we’d love to know what you think of the report, and whether you found it useful or not. We can then build on it to make it even better next year.

Are you effectively managing your contracts? Emma Keenan

The National Audit Office (NAO) has recently reissued its guidance on good contract management. The framework was originally developed because there was no widely available contract management good practice standard and the government at that time needed a benchmark. It was then shared as a useful document for procurement and other relevant roles to make use of. The framework focuses on the activities that organisations should consider when planning and delivering contract management and has particular relevance to service contracts (covering information and communications technology, facilities management and business processes) where service levels and value have to be maintained and improved often over long contract periods.

Whilst the document is not HE specific, the framework sets out key areas to focus on and will be very useful for anyone considering how to improve in this area. You can access the document here and, if you feel you might benefit from some formal training in this area, please get in touch with Emma.

Spam and counter-fraud training Matt Sisson

Thank you to those who have emailed us about the Spam emails apparently from BUFDG about invoices. They are at the less-convincing end of the Spam scale, and you all rightly guessed that these are fraudulent, but please do remain alert as phishing emails appear to be on the rise. UCEA is another sector organisation whose members have received similar fake emails recently, and there will be many more.

In related news, there are just a couple two weeks left to book on to the two ‘Fraud first-responder’ training courses in London on the 22nd May and in Edinburgh on Friday 2nd June. Back by popular demand, these courses are aimed at all those in institutions whose role means they may receive suspicions of potential frauds, as well as at university counter-fraud champions and institutional ‘first-responders’. They are hands-on, one-day courses that will provide you with the knowledge and framework to respond appropriately to fraud alerts and reports, and to make the right decisions in accordance with your university’s policies. You will be asked to bring along your university’s policies and response plans on the day and you will be able to test these against real-life HE scenarios and case-studies, visualising in advance how you might respond, as well as understand if changes need to be made to your institutional approach.

The courses also include sections on reporting channels, confidentiality and communication, and handling evidence. They will run from 10am until 4pm, with registration and refreshments from 9.30am. Lunch and all refreshments are included in the £160 delegate fee.

Detailed health course costings Matt Sisson

If your institution delivers pre-registration nursing, midwifery, and allied health courses then you’ll be interested in the outcome of a HEFCE-funded report into costings for these programmes. From 2017-18, students starting undergraduate courses in these subjects will be supported through the higher education finance system, with the courses becoming fundable by HEFCE. The council appointed KPMG to analyse course costs using HEI-submitted TRAC data, and the resulting report provides some interesting insight.

Although the report is for English HEIs, the data will be useful for Welsh, Scottish, and NI HEIs as well. As expected, average costs vary significantly by course, from £9,259 for the nursing professions, up to £11,341 for Therapeutic Radiography, with an average for all professions at £9,669. Further analysis into the cost components found that indirect department costs accounted for 55% of the total, with 34% for pay.

PMA participants' day, 26th June Emma Keenan

The PMA Programme has been delivering procurement capability assessments across the English HE sector since 2010. Individual capability results have been driving procurement development in institutions and the majority of participants have undertaken a 2nd (and often a 3rd) assessment to measure that progress. The PMA programme administrators are keen that best procurement practice is shared effectively across the sector, and to help facilitate this they are planning an PMA participants’ day in June to which all HEIs that have had a PMA will be invited.

The event will be held on the 26th June at Woburn House in London from 10:30 to 3:30. It will involve 4 workshops covering the range of procurement attributes in the PMA model, and will be an opportunity to hear from some colleagues who have made good progress in these areas. It will also include a discussion and Q&A session to share that learning. The PMA team will send formal invitations soon, but until then do save the date.

Guide to HEFCE funding Matt Sisson

HEFCE notified institutions of their grant allocations last week, but these are under embargo until the 5th May due to purdah for the local elections. In the meantime, the funding council has published two letters on how it has used HEI HESA and ILR data to inform the funding decisions, as well as a new ‘Guide to Funding’ document. This is a useful guide for any new starters you may have, which answers the common questions how HEFCE distributes funding, the components of HEI grants, and the requirements of HEIs in order to receive funding. 

COUP 5-7th September - Booking now open Emma Keenan

The Conference on University Purchasing (COUP) is the must attend biennial event for Heads of Procurement, Category Managers and Buyers. It is also extremely useful for those outside of the procurement function.  This year the conference is being held at the beautiful University of Swansea Campus in Wales. Whilst the programme is still being finalised, you can expect an agenda packed with interesting topics to ensure you are up to date with all things procurement related. For more information and how to book, click here.

Job of the Week Hayley Overton

This week's Job of the Week is for a Financial Accounting Officer at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance. "Working within the Finance department and reporting directly to the Financial Controller", the successful candidate will be "responsible for processing the day to day financial transactions of the Conservatoire". The closing date for applications is Monday 24th April.


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