25th August 2021

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BUFDG Digest 25 August 2021 Amanda Darley


Another summery Digest for you, including a bumper crop of learning and development courses and events coming up throughout the autumn.


BUFDG

We have a few changes at BUFDG central to let you know about – after 18 years steering the good ship BUFDG through many storms and turbulent times for university finances, Karel has decided to take life a little easier. She is NOT leaving us (thank goodness!), but from September Karel will reduce her commitment to 0.7FTE over three days (usually Weds-Fri), and Amanda will become BUFDG’s Head of Operations and Engagement, helping to deliver BUFDG’s new strategy and plan while taking on most internal BUFDG management duties and overseeing our interaction with and services for members, including much of our digital transformation. Matt will become BUFDG’s Project Manager to reflect his wide-ranging and varied role, and Ash becomes the Procurement and Project Specialist for both HEPA and BUFDG, reflecting his greater involvement in projects not entirely related to procurement. If it sounds like everyone at BUFDG central is playing musical chairs, some seats are staying the same - our learning and development remains in Rachel’s capable hands as our L&D Manager, Andrea will retain her laser-like focus on tax as our Tax Specialist, and Julia will continue as our resident employment tax geek (her words) as our Payroll and Employment Tax Specialist.


FUNDING

A reminder that the deadline for applying for the capital funding from the OfS is 10 September. You can find the new OfS bidding guidance here, and general information about this year’s OfS funding reforms here, published on 20 July.


DEBT FUNDING

The ATFS (Finalysis) July bulletin is available on our Supporter Directory and looks at the rising importance of ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance standards). As well as looking at the background of regulatory changes coming up around the world, it discusses accessing debt funding and ponders whether it is ‘likely in the future that those without a robust ESG strategy will struggle to access funds and at competitive rates’ and whether ‘this may even become a non-negotiable item’. The bulletin poses a number of questions that leadership teams looking to achieve excellence in this area should be considering in order to work towards that.


GENERAL

BEIS has launched a call for evidence into ways to substantially reduce research bureacracy. Responses will feed into the interim and final reports of the Independent review of research bureaucracy, which was first launched on 22 March 2021, with the overarching goal 'to advise on a substantial reduction in unnecessary research bureaucracy in government and the wider sector, supporting our researchers to focus on research and related activities which contribute to a healthy research base'. BEIS is keen to reach as broadly as possible across the research sector to gather views, so do take a look and see if you can contribute. The call for evidence closes on 1 October.

There’s an interesting blog on Wonkhe, contributed by Wrexham Glyndwr University and SU, discussing how to consider flexible learning to help students. It considers how some prospective students simply can’t access the traditional HE model of lectures and seminars during the working week and are therefore excluded from HE, how some struggling students might find it easier to ask questions via chat functions online than to put their hand up in a packed lecture theatre, and how digital options provide new ways to support students’ mental health too. However, it makes the very important point that GOOD online and flexible learning is far from being the cheap option – in fact it is often more expensive than offering traditional teaching. It makes an interesting read, and raises some useful points, such as how universities can make this all more effective by working closely with their SUs. However, the dangers of getting flexible/blended learning wrong are set out in another Wonkhe article contributed by the University of Westminster. To help get it right, universities must invest in training for staff so they really know how to teach online and use technology, start with pedagogy and curriculums and then select technology (not the other way around), and communicate clearly and consistently with students and manage their expectations. While some allowances for less than perfect delivery were made over the past year, the article warns that if universities get it wrong this year, there will be ‘nowhere to hide’ and no excuses.

Grant Thornton has launched a guide to Higher education sector developments, including cyber attacks, rising pension costs, mitigating climate change, Brexit and COVID-19. It looks at all this in the light of new auditing standards, possible additional scrutiny from BEIS, as well as covering developments in VAT, corporation tax, financial reporting and key messages from OfS. 


CYBER CRIME

We recently ran a fascinating session with Lloyds Bank and the University of Hertfordshire exploring The organisational impact of cyber-attacks in higher education. In case you missed it, you can catch up on that session and watch recording here. UKUPC has also arranged a Cyber Security webinar on 14 September.

Jisc is looking to strengthen the sector’s defences by adding three new principles to the Janet security policy. The proposed principles are:

  • Automatically blocking in-bound traffic from known, high-risk geographically specific IP addresses.
  • Insisting that all connected organisations conduct an annual review of cyber security posture against an agreed model.
  • Jisc undertaking regular proactive network scans in response to critical vulnerability alerts or actionable threat intelligence.

It is important for colleagues across the sector – including Finance – to understand developments in this space; you can read more about the proposals on the Jisc blog here, and attend Jisc’s online briefing on 31 August by registering your free place here.


TAX AND PAYROLL

We’ve got a few tax and payroll Time to Talk sessions coming up in over the autumn/winter: Import Reliefs Q&A on 8 September, Holiday pay for term time employees on 29 September, Working with the NHS: VAT Issues on 7 December, and UK VAT Reliefs Basics on 14 December – use the links to find out more and book your place – all these sessions are free to attend.

HMRC has issued a policy paper on the proposals for new rules relating to uncertain tax treatment. Not all details have been finalised, but the legislation apply to VAT, Corporation Tax and Income Tax, and will have effect from 1 April 2022 (for returns filed on or after that date). It will apply to businesses with turnover above £200 million per annum or a balance sheet total over £2 billion or both, and will require those businesses to notify HMRC of an ‘uncertain tax treatment’ above a threshold of £5 million (although ‘related amounts’ may be aggregated). The purpose of the measures is to ‘highlight and clarify legal interpretation differences earlier, either through notification, or by encouraging more businesses to discuss areas of uncertainty with HMRC before they submit their returns, thereby negating the requirement to notify’. There is an initial £5,000 penalty for failure to notify. Find out more in our news article.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has launched a consultation into the new building safety levy. Under the proposals the levy would apply in England to new high-rise residential buildings, care homes and hospitals more than 18m tall or at least seven storeys high. It will also apply to conversions from non-residential to residential use. There does not appear to be any exclusion for student accommodation, and responsibility for paying the levy would fall to the organisation for whom a construction project is carried out (i.e. universities or possibly their development sub cos). Two options to calculate the levy are proposed: per square metre, or per residential unit. We will be collating a response to the consultation on behalf of BUFDG, HEPA and AUDE, so if you have any comments or contributions, please contact Andrea by 1 October.

BUFDG’s Making Education Digital spreadsheet has recently received several updates including for France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Kenya, Spain, and some US states.

You can find more tax news in the latest TaxHE from 22 July, and even more up to date tax news on the Tax news section of our website.


SUSTAINABILITY AND PROCUREMENT

The Modern Slavery and Human Rights sub-group of the HEPA Responsible Procurement Group has produced a comprehensive guide listing resources related to modern slavery and human rights, including UK and international legislation, relevant international organisations, and guidance on modern slavery statements. You can download the modern slavery and human rights resources here.

Following on from the very interesting eMarketplace thread on the HEPA discussion board, we have released a systems survey, in conjunction with UKUPC, to help to improve communications, best practice and involvement in user groups within the sector. The survey can be completed here and is open until 1 October.

Simon Tse, CEO of CCS, has written an interesting piece for Public Finance setting out his views on what the upcoming procurement reforms will mean for public procurement. You can read Simon’s thoughts here, including his insight on the National Procurement Policy Statement (NPPS).

There are several HEPA resources available to you covering the upcoming Procurement Bill and the NPPS: Watch the recording of the Cabinet Office NPPS webinar here; our HEPA analysis of the NPPS is here; and our HEPA update on the Procurement Bill is here.

As mentioned in the Cyber Crime section above, UKUPC has arranged a Cyber Security webinar on 14 September covering what to do in the event of an attack and preventative measures that can be taken. The session will be of particular interest to those in procurement roles.


E-LEARNING

There’s so much to tell you about learning and development this time that we’ve had to split e-learning into it’s own section.

We have five new e-learning courses and two updates launching in September! With many thanks to BUFDG members who tested the courses for us, we are launching the follow new courses for our BUFDG Pro subscribers:

  • Introduction to Pensions in HE – a high level of overview of how pensions work in the HE sector suitable for anyone needing a broad understanding of HE pensions.
  • National Minimum Wage in the Higher Education Sector – an introduction to the topic suitable for new payroll staff; tax staff who may have to liaise with HMRC over NMW issues; HR staff setting and applying HR policy for taking on and paying people; departmental/school administrators and heads of department; departmental staff taking on volunteers etc.; and FDs (for an overview of the issues).
  • Anti-money laundering – a compliance course for anyone who needs to know more about money laundering and the relevant regulations, what to do if you have a suspicion, specific red flags and mitigations in the HE sector, and the consequences of getting it wrong.
  • Adding value as a Business Partner – helping business partners identify their strategic role, get involved in decisions earlier, learn tools and tips to build effectiveness, plan ways to be proactive and add value, and demonstrate the value they add.
  • Building Influence as a Business Partner – to help Business Partners (and others) develop their influencing and negotiating skills, building confidence in assertiveness, being able to challenge and deliver difficult messages, use your judgement, create compelling cases for change and tailor your messages to individual’s preferences.

We’re also currently refreshing our Intro to Counter Fraud course and the new version will be available in September, as will the update to our Intro to HE Finance course. We hope all these courses will be available from Monday 6 September, but any that aren’t quite ready will follow very shortly after.

As well as BUFDG’s e-learning courses, Insight Investments has kindly provided access to their online training hub to BUFDG members for free. Courses which may be of particular interest to BUFDG members include:

  • Your investment toolkit, investing responsibly through diversified growth strategies.
  • Where next for cash investors?
  • Are markets rational?
  • ESG: why should you care?
  • Introduction to money market funds.

To access these courses register on the Insight Investments training hub. For more detailed instructions on how to sign up, please see our news article.


LEARNING AND DEVELOPMENT

We’ve got a bumper autumn of L&D coming up!

There are so many courses, Time to Talk sessions, regional meetings etc. coming up this autumn, there simply isn’t room to mention them all (and even so, this is a really long section!), so do check out our Events calendar to see them all.

We’ve got a number of events/courses specifically for senior leaders this autumn – our Directors’ Development Day, our Action Learning Sets and AHUA’s Professional Service Directors’ Programme.

Bookings are now open for the next Directors' Development Day which this year is being held online, across two mornings on the 23 and 24 September. This year we are joined by colleagues from Estates, Human Resources and Strategic Planning. Themes include disruption in the sector; the future of professional services; aligning costs to drive financial sustainability; and best use of technology and dynamic working to be key enablers. The event is FREE to attend and you can find out more and book here.

For our latest round of Action Learning Sets (ALS) for senior leaders, BUFDG is partnering with ARMA, AUDE, CHEIA, HEPA, HESPA, SCONUL, UCISA and UHR (our equivalent for professionals across the Research, Estates, Internal Audit, Procurement, Strategic Planning, Libraries, IT and HR).

An ALS is a small, confidential forum where each participant brings to the meeting an organisational task, problem, challenge or opportunity on which they intend to act. An ALS provides a fantastic opportunity to learn from others across the sector and from different disciplines. Each ALS will include just five participants taking part in six half-day sessions online, and will cost £450 (plus VAT). Previous participants have told us they ‘would recommend to anyone wanting a leadership development programme that really has impact and the ability to transform your working practice’, they found it the most empowering self-reflection development I have undertaken’ and that the ‘new perspectives and challenge from fellow leaders enabled me to further develop my own leadership capabilities’. You can find out more and register your interest here – the closing date to register your interest is 3 September.

The Association of Heads of University Administration (AHUA) has just launched the sixth iteration of its development programme targeted at new heads of service/early-career directors to help develop their leadership skills. The Professional Service Directors’ Programme, which has been informed by collaboration between AHUA, and a number of other professional associations, will start in January 2022. The deadline for applications is 26 November 2021. The Professional Service Directors' Programme fee is £5,750. For further information, the course programme and application forms can be found on the AHUA website, or speak to Catherine Webb, AHUA Executive Secretary, on 07785 286833.

We’ve got the online TRAC conference coming up on 27-28 September. It includes a mix of plenary and breakout sessions and give delegates a thorough overview on the work of the TRAC Development Group, their activities, and of course the latest TRAC guidance. You can find out more and book here. For anyone new to TRAC we also have our Introduction to TRAC course taking place online on 8 November – find out more and book here.

There are two NEW BUFDG courses this autumn too: The first is Effective Data Visualisation for Finance, demonstrating the key principles of effective data communication, which consists of three half-day sessions and costs £150 (plus VAT) – find out more and book here. There’s also Demystifying Finance and Budgeting in the HE sector, aimed at non-accountants. This a blended virtual training programme incorporating on-demand e-learning with two live online classes. The course will be interactive, engaging and even fun on occasion! Find out more and book here, or pass the information on to anyone outside finance you think would find the course useful. It costs £250 plus VAT.

We’ve got lots of regional meetings in the calendar already including Deputy Finance Director meetings throughout October (find out more and book here) and tax group meetings (find dates and book here).

Our online Credit Control event will take place from 2-5 November. We’ll hold a series of webinars with a range of sessions to support our members within Credit Control. We’ll also have our usual network support sessions together with sessions from CICM, UUK and external providers. Look out for further details in the next few weeks, but if you’d like more information or would like to be involved, contact Rachel.

In a change from our usual Management Accountants Conference, this year we’ll be running a series of webinars from the 16-19 November. We will offer the same variety of sessions, giving a broad overview of the HE sector with external training support and a variety of universities sharing their own experiences. We’ll also host a number of regional network sessions so you can connect with more peers. We hope this format will give more flexibility to our delegates.  For more information or to get involved, contact Rachel.

Some other courses coming up this autumn include: Introduction to US GAAP on 15 September, Finance Business Partnering Foundations (two parts: 21 September and 1 October), Strategic Business Partnering (two parts: 6 and 7 October), and Influencing your organisation (two parts: 8 and 15 October).

We have various Time to Talk sessions planned too – see the Tax, Procurement and Fraud sections above.


JOB(S) OF THE FORTNIGHT

King’s College London is looking for a new Procurement Officer to support the Assistant Director of the Corporate Services category in Procurement Strategy and Services, helping to develop and implement purchasing strategies and control processes that optimise value for money and support the efficient, compliant and cost effective purchase of goods and services on a College-wide basis. King’s is also looking for a Travel Manager, a brand new role to manage the business travel and related services for the College, as the College has identified the need to pro-actively manage its business travel and accommodation portfolio in the light of the removal of pandemic restrictions, a new travel policy and carbon reduction targets.

You can find our other HE finance  job listings here