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BUFDG Digest, Wednesday 7th September 2022

07 September 2022      Matt Sisson, Projects and Membership Manager


BUFDG

If this is your first Digest since your Summer holidays, welcome back! We hope the return to the desk job has been more ‘friendly and familiar’ than ‘a shock to the system’! To ease you back in, we’ve just published the September issue of the Chair’s Quarterly. It’s Erica’s first Quarterly since she took on the role from Sarah, so she takes the opportunity to share her thoughts with the group about what we might focus on over the next year or two. Read the first article for where she thinks BUFDG can make an important contribution.

Next up is a summary of the power market from our colleagues at TEC. Adam Clarke and his team are doing a fantastic job at helping sector finance and estates team keep it together, despite the unprecedented budgeting challenges that the current energy situation provides. Make sure you book on to the September webinars for more information.

Then, Karel shares her thoughts, and updates, on sustainability reporting, before Karen rounds-up all the Financial Reporting resources that have been published recently (see more on this below), and Matt asks you for your experiences of Financial Systems implementations – sharing is caring! Download the Quarterly here. And if you don't receive it directly, but would like to, click here to subscribe.


TECH WEEK

We’ve now launched the mini-site for Tech Week, which takes place 3-7 October. As the name suggests, it’s a series of free events spread over a single week for BUFDG members to hear about trends and themes, issues and challenges, and new and existing products in the HE sector, all in or related to the technology / digital / software space. The week is made up of lots and lots of different sessions, all run as hour-long webinars via MS Teams. Members can choose to attend as many or as few sessions as you like - there are no restrictions on numbers! 

Each session runs for one hour.  There are four sessions running each day across the week - 9.30am, 11am, 1pm and 2.30pm, with the event ending with the 1pm session on Friday. To view the programme, synopses, and speakers in full, visit the programme pages on the website. And then click here to book onto this free event. If you have any questions or comments about the event, please do email Matt Sisson or Ashley Shelbrooke.


SECTOR / FUNDING

Liz Truss is PM! And we have another Minister of State for Education! Another couple of years of this, and David Kernohan will have written abridged biographies of absolutely every Tory MP. Thank you David. No news of a universities or science minister at time of writing.

We do know though that Susan Lapworth has been appointed OfS chief executive. She has been in post on an interim basis for since May, and emerged the strongest candidate from the appointment process.  

The government has extended its guarantee for applicants to the Horizon Europe scheme. Initially launched late last year, “The extension will ensure that eligible, successful UK applicants will continue to be guaranteed funding, supporting them to continue their important work in research and innovation. The guarantee will now be in place to cover all Horizon Europe calls that close on or before 31 December 2022, with the majority of grant signature dates expected before the end of August 2023.” Full details are on the gov.uk website.


FINANCIAL REPORTING

A reminder that there have been lots of Financial Reporting updates over the last month, and many of these are contained in this Summer’s Financial Reporting Group newsletter. The latest Model Financial Statements are available and, as usual, you will need to consider your own specific inputs to this and how they are consistent or different from those used last year. Documenting this for your internal approvals, audit and disclosures is key.

The USS Deficit Provision Modeller for 2021/22 is also available for download, along with the latest Discount Rate guidance from Mercer. The corresponding discussion on the BUFDG boards – should you have any questions of colleagues – is via this link. The final piece of the puzzle are the USS FRS102 Year end disclosure note and Annex, which is available in the side-bar on the Financial Reporting pages of the website, and the related discussion post for any follow-up comments.

Also, FRG has seen several members move on this year, either due to retirement or changes in roles. If you, or any of your team has an interest in financial statement reporting and would like to get involved in the group, please get in contact with Karen.


SUSTAINABILITY / ENERGY

TEC, the sector’s energy consortium, has produced its latest energy market update for August 2022. Energy Commodity Markets continue to settle at unprecedented highs and, with little chance of a return to normality on the horizon, this is creating a high degree of budget uncertainty for all sectors of the economy. TEC’s update provides insight into the current gas and power markets, and explains why the situation is so challenging.

It’s also not too late to book onto one of the TEC webinars on the energy market and the impact on universities (the webinar is run twice but content - apart from updated figures - will be the same). The two dates are the 8th September and 14th September. Energy costs are going to blow budgets apart and even make some commercial activity unviable so this webinar is a must-attend to understand current and future market conditions and share across the sector what we can do to get through. As part of the webinar TEC will also be seeking opinion on future energy usage and what steps we can take in both the short and medium term to reduce consumption. This is a great opportunity to ask questions and share experiences as we navigate through uncertain times. It’s open to all BUFDG members, even if you’re not a member of TEC. Use your AUDE/BUFDG/HEPA login to book but let Gill know if there are any problems.

Newton IM has recently updated its paper on ‘Sustainable portfolio ‘withdrawal rates’ for charities’, which might be useful in guiding your trustees in thinking through spending and withdrawals processes and policies for institutional endowments, and reviewing decision outcomes. You might also be interested in the latest Charity investment team – quarterly outlook in which Rorie Evans and Alison El-Araby discuss interest-rate rises, inflation and the key areas of opportunity. Click below as well for links to additional information including responsible investment reports, factsheets, investment strategies, strategy outlook videos and fund prices. And, if you have any comments or questions, you can get in touch with Alan Goodwin.

Finally, QMPF has published a blog on the next phase of the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme that provides grant funding targeted at the decarbonisation of heat across the public sector in England, including universities. In the previous phase, 3a, 16 universities accessed grant funding of £40m+. As institutions consider how to move further along their Net Zero plans, any additional funding should be of interest to the sector.

  

TAXES

While Andrea and Julia get back up and running with their usual TaxHE updates following the Summer break, here’s news that HMRC have provided further clarification of how Uncertain Tax Treatment (UTT) will apply to universities and their subsidiaries. Members may recall that UTT could potentially apply where company or group has a turnover of more than £200m and/or balance sheets assets of £2billion, and it has an “uncertain tax treatment” relating to VAT, CT or Employment taxes in excess of £5m. This then needs to be notified to HMRC. If you’d like to find out more about HMRC’s position and how it was reached, Andrea has an excellent summary in this article. If that’s TL;DR, the good news is that UTT will have very limited application to the university sector.


MA / BUSINESS PARTNERING

Members can now book themselves onto our very popular Business Partner training courses taking place in the next few weeks. Strategic Business Partnering is held online on the 20th and 21st September 10-1pm. It is spread over two 3-hour modules, and is for those who already have experience of operating in a Finance Partnering approach and wish to operate more strategically, and if you wish to further develop the effectiveness and impact of the Finance function and your role, and gain increased organisational influence.

Finance Business Partner Foundations – is online on the 12th and 13th October 10-1pm. Again spread over two 3-hour modules, it is for you if you wish to establish yourself in a Finance Business Partnering role and to set solid foundations for success. It includes developing an understanding of what true business partnering is, core partnering skills and mindsets, and tips and tools that can be used in practice at work to enhance your role. For any queries about either course, please contact Rachel.


OTHER

Our Job of the Fortnight is for an Associate Director Finance Transformation and Customer Service at Keele University. The successful candidate “will be responsible, in partnership with senior Finance colleagues, for the strategic and operational oversight and continuous improvement of the full range of financial services across the University, ensuring the delivery of high-quality financial services for students, staff, and other colleagues”. The deadline for applications is Friday 16th September. As usual, there are lots of other vacancies listed on the BUFDG jobs page.






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