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Contents

  • Executive summary
  • Introduction
  • Guidance
    • Annual assurance return
    • Annual monitoring statement
    • Corporate planning statement
    • Audited financial statements
    • Financial results and forecast tables
    • Financial commentary on past performance and future prospects
    • Audit committee annual report
    • External audit management letter
    • Internal audit annual report
  • Returns
  • Annex A Guidance notes on completing the annual monitoring statement return
  • Annex B Sample annual monitoring statement 2008
  • Annex C Financial results and forecast tables: guidance notes
  • Annex D Sample financial tables 2008
  • Annex E Annual assurance return template
  • List of abbreviations

Executive summary

Purpose

1.   This document asks higher education institutions to send us their annual accountability returns for 2008. This annual process has been commonly known as the 'single conversation'. The accountability returns form a significant part of the way in which institutions can demonstrate accountability for the public funds distributed to them.

Key points

2.   In May 2007 we published 'Accountability for higher education institutions: new arrangements from 2008' (HEFCE 2007/11), which confirmed that the 'single conversation' process would apply in full from 2008. This is part of our continuing commitment to reduce the burden of regulation on the higher education sector. We set out the process for 2008 in Circular Letter 15/2008.

3.   The documents to be sent to us, and their submission dates, are as follows:

Annual assurance return  
Annual monitoring statement (AMS)  
Corporate planning statement (CPS)  
Audited financial statements  
Financial results and forecast tables 1 December 2008
Financial commentary on past performance and future prospects  
Audit committee annual report  
External audit management letter  
Internal audit annual report  
Higher Education Students Early Statistics (HESES) return 9 December 2008
Research Activity Survey (RAS) 11 December 2008
Transparent Approach to Costing (TRAC) return 30 January 2009

4.   This publication gives guidance on the returns that are to be submitted to us by 1 December 2008. Detailed guidance on the requirements of the HESES, RAS and TRAC returns will be provided separately.

5.   Those institutions that met the criteria for funding under the new Capital Investment Framework for 2008-2011 are required to provide information within the AMS return. The detail of these requirements is included within this publication.

6.   We will primarily use the information collected to:

  1. Monitor the use of our funds for the purposes intended, including compliance with the Financial Memorandum.
  2. Form a basis for discussion with institutions about their progress in key areas, their priorities for strategic development and their current and future performance.
  3. Largely determine our risk assessments of each institution.
  4. Identify trends across the sector and advise the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills on the needs and development of the higher education sector.

Action required

7.   The single conversation returns should be submitted as follows:

  • one paper copy of the completed annual assurance return (Annex E) signed by the head of the institution should be sent to: Single conversation returns, HEFCE, Northavon House, Coldharbour Lane, Bristol BS16 1QD
  • electronic copies of the following should be sent via the HEFCE extranet:
    • completed AMS template
    • CPS
    • audited financial statements
    • completed financial results and forecast tables
    • financial commentary on past performance and future prospects
    • audit committee annual report
    • external audit management letter
    • internal audit annual report.

Templates for the AMS and financial tables will be available for completion at the end of September 2008. We will write to heads of finance and our AMS contact in each institution at the end of September with details on how to access the templates and how to return information to us.

Date: 1 September 2008

Ref: 2008/31

To: Heads of HEFCE-funded higher education institutions, Heads of universities in Northern Ireland

Of interest to those
responsible for:

Audit, Estates, Finance, Governance, Management, Planning, Student data

Enquiries should be directed to:

HEFCE higher education policy advisers (on annual monitoring and corporate planning statements)

HEFCE assurance consultants or assurance advisers (for financial and audit accountability returns)