Dear Vice-Chancellor or Principal
Supporting public accountability: Presenting income and expenditure information to current students
1. We are writing to you regarding work HEFCE has undertaken at the Government’s request with the British Universities Finance Directors Group (BUFDG), GuildHE, the National Union of Students (NUS) and Universities UK (UUK) to explore the presentation of information on institutional income and expenditure (including tuition fee income). This work aims to support higher education providers in meeting the Government’s accountability expectations, in a way that is mindful of competition between institutions and seeks to minimise additional administrative burden on universities.
2. HEFCE has commissioned desk-based and survey research to establish the current provision of and demand for this information. The survey of 2,400 current students conducted by NUS Research Services demonstrated that there was significant interest in this type of information but that:
- Of the students who looked for this information, 40 per cent were unable to find it.
- Once the information was found, 44 per cent of students reported that the format it was presented in was difficult to understand.
3. The key areas identified through the research for improving the provision of this financial information were:
- to make the information easier to find by positioning it more obviously on institutions’ own web-sites
- to make the information visually clear
- to provide a useful but not excessive level of detail
- to explain technical language.
4. This letter provides guidance for providers of higher education on how to present income and expenditure information drawn from their summary financial statements on their web-sites in a clear and simple way that is useful and accessible to students.
Next steps: Actions for institutions
5. We are asking institutions to use the guidance for ‘Increasing the visibility of institutional financial information for current students’ developed by BUFDG, GuildHE, HEFCE, NUS and UUK (available below) to provide this information in a way that is useful and accessible to students. We recommend that institutions should work with their student representatives to develop a solution which meets student needs. It will of course still be necessary for institutions to publish their audited annual accounts.
6. Institutions are asked to identify a local web-site solution by the end of October 2014, ready to publish information from their 2013-14 audited financial accounts by January 2015.
7. Institutions should look to include the minimum dataset identified in the attached guidance.
8. In February 2015 HEFCE will sample institutional web-sites. We intend to collect and promote examples of good practice. Institutions are invited to volunteer as case study examples.
9. Information on income and expenditure forms one element of the information we strongly encourage institutions to make available for students and the public (‘Providing information about higher education’). HEFCE will be writing to institutions later in 2014 to clarify and summarise our expectations more generally for: provision of information for students, how we, working with partners, monitor this information; and the actions we may take in response.
|Professor Madeleine Atkins||Bob Rabone|