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The latest date for submission of HEIs’ audited financial statements for 2014-15 is Tuesday 1 December 2015

Dear Vice-Chancellor or Principal

HEFCE’s Accounts direction to higher education institutions for 2014-15 financial statements

1. I am writing to inform you of HEFCE’s Accounts direction to higher education institutions (HEIs) on preparing financial statements for 2014-15.

Statement of recommended practice: Accounting for further and higher education

2. HEIs are required to follow the ‘Statement of recommended practice: Accounting for further and higher education’ (SORP), or any successor to the SORP, in preparing their financial statements. The latest version of the SORP (2007) is available from the Universities UK web-site.

3. In the case of an HEI that is also a company limited by guarantee, this direction is subject to the requirements of the Companies Act.

4. The financial statements must be signed by the accountable officer, and by the chair of the governing body or one other member appointed by that body.

Corporate governance and internal control

5. The voluntary Governance Code of Practice contained in the Committee of University Chairs’ ‘Guide for Members of Higher Education Governing Bodies in the UK’ (HEFCE 2009/14) recommends that HEIs report in the corporate governance statement of their annual audited financial statements that they have had regard to the code, and that where an HEI’s practices are not consistent with particular provisions of the code an explanation should be published in that statement.

6. Adopting this code of practice, with the principles of the code adapted to each HEI’s character, is an important factor in enabling HEFCE to rely on self-regulation within HEIs, and hence minimise the accountability burden.

7. HEIs are required to maintain a sound system of internal control and to ensure that the following key principles of effective risk management have been applied. Effective risk management:

  • covers all risks – including those of governance, management, quality, reputation and finance – but focuses on the most important risks
  • produces a balanced portfolio of risk exposure
  • is based on a clearly articulated policy and approach
  • requires regular monitoring and review, giving rise to action where appropriate
  • needs to be managed by an identified individual and involve the demonstrable commitment of governors, academics and officers
  • is integrated into normal business processes and aligned with the strategic objectives of the organisation.

8. HEIs are required to review at least annually the effectiveness of their system of internal control.

9. HEIs are required to include in their annual financial statements a statement on internal control (corporate governance). In formulating their statements, HEIs should refer to best practice guidance, including guidance from the British Universities Finance Directors Group. As a minimum these disclosures should include an account of how the following broad principles of corporate governance have been applied.

  1. Identifying and managing risk should be an ongoing process linked to achieving institutional objectives.
  2. The approach to internal control should be risk-based, including an evaluation of the likelihood and impact of risks becoming a reality.
  3. Review procedures must cover business, operational and compliance risk as well as financial risk.
  4. Risk assessment and internal control should be embedded in ongoing operations.
  5. During the year the governing body or relevant committee should receive regular reports on internal control and risk.
  6. The principal results of risk identification, risk evaluation and the management review of their effectiveness should be reported to, and reviewed by, the governing body.
  7. The governing body should acknowledge that it is responsible for ensuring that a sound system of control is maintained, and that it has reviewed the effectiveness of the above process.
  8. Where appropriate, details of actions taken or proposed to deal with significant internal control issues should be set out (see Annex A).

10. HEIs are required to make a statement on corporate governance covering the period from 1 August 2014 to 31 July 2015, and up to the date of approval of the audited financial statements.

Date of submission to HEFCE of audited financial statements

11. The latest date for submission of HEIs’ audited financial statements for 2014-15 is Tuesday 1 December 2015. Earlier submission will be very welcome.

External audit requirements

12. HEIs are required to ensure that their contracts for external audit provide for an opinion on whether the HEI has applied funds provided by HEFCE, where appropriate, in accordance with the Memorandum of Assurance and Accountability, and whether funds from whatever source, including funding council grants, have been used for the purposes for which they were received. Guidance on wording is available in paragraph 23 of Annex A of the Memorandum of Assurance and Accountability (HEFCE 2014/12).

Remuneration of higher-paid staff

13. HEIs are required to disclose the following.

  1. The actual total remuneration of the head of institution, disclosing separately:

    • salary
    • performance-related and other bonuses awarded for the financial year, including any deferred payment arrangements and separate disclosure of amounts waived
    • any sums paid by way of expenses allowances (in so far as those sums are charged to UK income tax)
    • the estimated money value of any other taxable benefits received by the head of institution, other than in cash (in particular company cars, subsidised loans including mortgage subsidies, and subsidised accommodation)
    • contributions to relocation costs
    • any sums paid in respect of the head of institution under any pension scheme.

    The HEI must show a sub-total excluding pension contributions and a total including them. Salary sacrifice arrangements should be described.

    Where there is a change of head of institution (including an acting head of institution) either between years or during a year, details are to be shown separately for each person, and relevant start and finish dates given.

    Pensions paid or receivable under an adequately funded pension scheme do not require disclosure.

  2. The number of higher-paid staff other than the head of institution whose emoluments received in the year (including taxable benefits in kind, but excluding compensation for loss of office and employer pension costs) fall in bands of £10,000 from a starting point of £100,000. Payments funded from external sources, including the NHS, should be included in emoluments. Royalties or other payments that are outside the affairs of the HEI do not count as emoluments for this purpose.

    Disclosure is not required for staff who joined or left part-way through a year but who would have received emoluments in these bands in a full year.

  3. Details (see Annex B) of any compensation for loss of office paid or payable to the head of institution or to staff earning in excess of £100,000 per year.

14. The following information should be included in the HEI’s audited financial statements and related reports. 

  1. The charitable status of the HEI.
  2. The trustees who served at any time during the financial year, and until the date the financial statements were formally approved.
  3. A statement that the charity has had regard to the Charity Commission’s guidance on public benefit. Note that the Charity Commission updated its guidance in late 2011.
  4. A report on how the HEI has delivered its charitable purposes for the public benefit.
  5. Information about payments to or on behalf of trustees, including: the aggregate of expenses paid to trustees for their duties as trustees; payments to trustees for serving as trustees (and waivers of such payments); and related party transactions involving trustees. Additional guidance is available on the HEFCE web-site.
  6. For each paragraph 28 (connected) charity that has income in the year of £100,000 or more, the following:
    1. Its name and charitable purpose.
    2. The opening balance, income and expenditure for the year, and closing balance.
  7. For all other paragraph 28 charities, the following:

    1. An analysis into appropriate groups (for example prize funds, bursary or scholarship funds, research support funds) stating the number of entities in each group.
    2. For each group: the aggregate opening balances, income and expenditure for the year, and closing balances.

    (Note: the terms ‘opening balance’ and ‘closing balance’ in paragraphs 14f and 14g should be interpreted as total reserves where the paragraph 28 charity is an operating charity.)

15. The Accounts direction is reviewed annually. The 2014-15 Accounts direction will remain in force unless HEIs are notified otherwise. We recommend providing copies of this letter and the annexes to the HEI’s finance and audit committees.

16. Any matters arising from this letter should be referred to the relevant HEFCE assurance consultant or assurance adviser. A searchable list of contacts can be found on our web-site.

Yours sincerely

Professor Madeleine Atkins

Chief Executive

Date: 11 August 2014

Ref: Circular letter 25/2014

To: Heads of HEFCE-funded higher education institutions

Of interest to those
responsible for:

Governance, Finance, Audit, Management

Enquiries should be directed to:

HEFCE assurance consultant or assurance adviser