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UUK Initial Draft Framework on VfM Statements

Universities UK (UUK) recently published an initial draft framework to support the development of value for money statements.  It offers suggestions about how to present financial information to students.  This guidance fills an obvious vacuum and offers the sector a solution to a pressing problem.  The OfS is a new regulator and its approach remains largely unknown, but we fear that the UUK framework risks being a misinterpretation of the question set by the OfS.

In this briefing note, we offer a critique of the framework and where it may fall short of OfS expectations and suggest alternative approaches.

Augar

The recently published Augar review suggests that some tuition fees might be reduced.  Although these are just recommendations for the moment, a future prime minister may want to be seen to address tuition fees before facing an election.  Inevitably all of this will prompt discussion around financial sustainability and security in the sector.  In this briefing note, we consider this, and other (higher education related) recommendations within the Augar report.

Student Mental Health

Mental health provision is a general concern across all of higher education, often taking centre stage in political and higher education sector debates, both in the UK and beyond. The World Health Organisation has highlighted the lack of resources. Universities are under increased pressure from the government, media and public to enhance their performance in this area. So what can Universities do?

In this briefing note, we summarise the main debates in this area, highlight emerging trends of good practice (while including our own critical view), and illustrate some of the main problems within the topic. In the absence of a national framework, we will try to identify emerging trends, and to provide insights into the complex debates.

Data Assurance Update

Data is at the heart of the Office for Students’ (OfS) new regulatory framework. In November 2018 they published their strategy, which describes their intentions for collection, management and use of data from providers to support their regulatory responsibilities and become a fully evidence-based regulator. In this briefing note we discuss this strategy, and any arising questions.

Regulatory Environment: Notes from a Uniac Event

On 29 January, we hosted an event with Steve Butcher who is currently Head of Procurement and Efficiency at the Office for Students (OfS).  The session was intended to provide an update on the future of accountability, governance, value for money and data in the sector. In this article are some notes from this session.

Response to Final Guidance on REF2021 - February 2019

Last week, the most recent guidance on REF2021 was published, including guidance on submissions, panel criteria, and a template for codes of practice. This offers significant clarity and detail about the next REF and in doing so has caused waves amongst the academic community principally because providers may submit returns for staff that have been made redundant.

Risk Briefing – Beyond Higher Education

The Chartered Institute of Internal Auditors has surveyed company executives with responsibility for risk across Europe (France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, the UK and Ireland) to assess where they expect risk efforts to focus in the forthcoming year and further into the future.  This survey included a wide range of sectors beyond education and provides a tool for internal audit and audit committees to horizon scan.  It follows a similar exercise undertaken last year.

Cyber security continues to be the single biggest risk.  New risks to emerge and / or with increasing emphasis over the last year, include those relating to inequality in the workplace and all types of discrimination.  Similarly, there is more focus on social media – but recognising that there are significant opportunities as well as risks to manage.  Inevitably, Brexit and global / international relations flow through a number of the areas – whether in relation to suppliers, trade restrictions or political uncertainty.

Higher Education Risk Themes

Following a similar exercise last year, we have completed a desk top review of risk registers (across all our members and clients).  Unsurprisingly, the results show similar themes across most institutions.  Of course, the breadth, scale and diverse nature of institutions, from Russell Group members through to small specialist providers, causes individual risks to play out differently.     

Value for Money - A Gathering Storm?

These days it seems as though we talk of little else.  If the volume of debate about value for money can be taken as a measure of success, the Office for Students, which has student value for money as one of its core objectives, may certainly take a bow. 

So far, though, discussions have often generated more heat than light, and moreover it seems like those outside of the sector are making the running.  This potentially places individual institutions on the back foot in their dealings whether with student stakeholders or with the Office for Students.  It is also potentially dangerous for the sector as a whole in the context of the Post-18 Review of Education and Funding.  

ICT Oversight

Effective stewardship over information and communication technology ensures expected benefits are delivered, risks are managed and technological strategy goes in the right direction.  It’s crucial but often overlooked, misunderstood or badly executed.  This can result in problems particularly – from our experience – in the higher education sector.   

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