You need cookies enabled

HEFCE closed at the end of March 2018. The information on this website is historical and is no longer maintained.

Many of HEFCE's functions will be continued by the Office for Students, the new regulator of higher education in England, and Research England, the new council within UK Research and Innovation.

The HEFCE domain - - will continue to function until September 2018. At this point we will close the site entirely and all its information will only be available from the National Web Archive.


You need cookies enabled
HEFCE-funded higher education institutions are required to submit the annual accountability returns according to the deadlines set out in Table 1, via the HEFCE extranet.

Dear Vice-Chancellor or Principal

Annual accountability returns 2017: Request for information


1. This document asks HEFCE-funded higher education institutions (HEIs) to submit their annual accountability returns for 2017. These returns are a significant part of the way in which providers can demonstrate accountability for the public grant funding and student loan funding distributed to them.

Key points

2. All HEIs are required to submit the returns listed in Table 1 by the dates indicated in the final column.

3. We have made some changes to our assurance requirements concerning value for money (see paragraph 9).

4. This request for information covers the period to 31 March 2018. You may be aware that HEFCE will be replaced by a new regulator for English higher education providers, the Office for Students, from 1 April 2018 and therefore this letter covers only the information requirements of HEFCE.


5. HEFCE takes assurance from a suite of accountability returns submitted by each provider to HEFCE under the terms of the Memorandum of Assurance and Accountability (most recently published as HEFCE 2017/08, We minimise our accountability requirements by making use of a range of information and data that is needed by the HEI for internal management and assurance purposes.

6. We will use the information and data collected through the annual accountability returns to:

  • gain assurance that public grant funding is used for the purposes intended
  • assess compliance with the Memorandum of Assurance and Accountability (HEFCE 2017/08) and with the Agreement on Institutional Designation (HEFCE Circular letter 03/2017)
  • inform our risk assessment for each HEI and allow us to ensure that it is meeting our quality assessment requirements
  • identify issues and developments across and within parts of the higher education sector in England, and to use these to inform future policy development
  • inform our advice to the Secretary of State and the Department for Education on the financial health, quality and sustainability of higher education provision in England.

7. Table 1 lists the required annual accountability returns to be submitted to HEFCE in the period to 31 March 2018, together with the level at which each should be approved, submission dates, and the location of more detailed guidance. All the returns listed are to be submitted electronically via the secure area of the HEFCE website (the ‘HEFCE extranet’).

Table 1: Annual accountability returns

Element of the Annual Accountability Returns

Approval level

More detailed guidance

Submission date

The Annual Assurance Return using the template in Annex A

Accountable officer

Annex B

1 December 2017


Signed audited financial statements

Governing body

Memorandum of Assurance and Accountability

The Audit Committee’s annual report

Governing body

The external auditor’s management letter and the provider’s management response to this

Reported to Audit Committee

The internal auditor’s annual report

Reported to Audit Committee

A financial commentary

Governing body


Annex C

An annual sustainability assessment (optional)

Governing body

See further information at

Higher Education Students Early Statistics (HESES) survey 2017-18

Accountable officer


11 December 2017

Transparent Approach to Costing (TRAC) return

Governing body committee

Annex D

31 January 2018, although earlier returns would be appreciated.

Transparent Approach to Costing for Teaching (TRAC (T)) return

Accountable officer

28 February 2018, although earlier returns would be appreciated.

An annual efficiency return

Accountable officer

Annex E

31 January 2018


8. If the timetable for submissions creates difficulties for you, please discuss the reasons for this with your HEFCE assurance consultant.

Key changes

9. The key changes in this year’s accountability returns are:

  1. All HEFCE-funded HEIs are required to submit, by 31 January 2018, an annual efficiency return approved by the accountable officer. Further information is given in Annex E.
  2. TRAC guidance (available online at has been updated to adopt the Margin for Sustainability and Investment (MSI) as a replacement for the Return for Financing and Investment and Infrastructure adjustments. Directors of Finance and TRAC managers should refer to Annex D for further information.
  3. For all HEIs we have added a statement in the annual assurance return to confirm adequate and effective arrangements for the management and quality assurance of data submitted to the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), the Student Loans Company, HEFCE and other bodies. This includes the timeliness and reliability of the data returns to these bodies.
  4. For those HEIs that have received approval from HEFCE to increase financial commitments beyond the calculated threshold, the annual assurance return requires confirmation of compliance with the conditions of HEFCE’s approval. This relates to any financial commitment approval that is in effect, irrespective of when HEFCE gave approval. HEFCE writes annually to HEIs that have such approval.

Assurance statements on quality and standards

10. Providers were required to submit the new statements for the first time in December 2016. The assurance statements should reflect your governing body’s oversight of academic governance arrangements during the 2016-17 academic year. For 2017-18 the statements remain the same as in 2016-17, and are set out in Annex A.

Support for governing bodies

11. In support of the new approach to quality assessment, HEFCE has contracted the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education (LFHE) to consider the current capabilities of governing bodies and to design and pilot approaches to provide additional support to governing bodies. The first year of this project has explored how governing bodies engage with academic governance in their institutions. The LFHE has produced a summary of reflections from this activity that governing bodies may find helpful. This can be found at:

Our assessment for each provider

12. We will assess the annual accountability returns made by each provider. We will share our assessment of risk in writing to the accountable officer, with a copy to the chair of the governing body.

13. We will also use the data and information submitted by individual providers to compile and publish an assessment of the financial health of the higher education sector in England. The relevant publication for the 2016 year is ‘Financial health of the higher education sector: 2015-16 financial results’ (HEFCE 2017/02

Freedom of information

14. Information submitted to HEFCE may be disclosed on request, under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act 2000. The Act gives a public right of access to any information held by a public authority, in this case HEFCE. We have a responsibility to decide whether any information or data submitted to us by a provider should be made public or treated as confidential. We may refuse to disclose information in exceptional circumstances, for example where disclosure of information would prejudice commercial interests, such as a provider’s financial and strategic planning, or where the release of information could result in anti-competitive behaviour. For further information about the Act, including the particular circumstances when information may be withheld, see under ‘Freedom of information’.

Action required

15. All HEIs are required to submit the annual accountability returns according to the deadlines set out in Table 1.

16. We will write to the director of finance of each provider at the beginning of October with guidance about how to access the templates and return information to us.

Yours sincerely

Professor Madeleine Atkins

Chief Executive


Print-friendly version

Download the Print-friendly version as PDF (142 KB)

Annex A: Annual assurance return

Download the Annex_A as MS Word (53 KB)

Annex B: Guidance on completion of the annual assurance return

Download the Annex_B as PDF (110 KB) Download the Annex_B as MS Word (36 KB)

Annex C: Financial commentary guidance

Download the Annex_C as PDF (98 KB) Download the Annex_C as MS Word (32 KB)

Annex D: Transparent Approach to Costing return

Download the Annex_D as PDF (123 KB) Download the Annex_D as MS Word (36 KB)

Annex E: Annual efficiency return

Download the Annex_E as PDF (106 KB) Download the Annex_E as MS Word (32 KB)

Date: 20 October 2017

Ref: Circular letter 36/2017

To: Heads of HEFCE-funded higher education institutions

Of interest to those
responsible for:

Audit, Estates, Finance, Governance, Management, Planning, Student data, Research data, Academic quality

Enquiries should be directed to: