VFM Round Table Discussions, Manchester & London — Summary of Discussions and Potential Outcomes
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Executive and non-executive representatives from 34 higher education providers and five sector organisations met in Manchester and London to discuss value for money reporting, particularly how HEFCE might develop more structured mandatory value for money reporting by individual institutions.
The need for such reporting is driven by the government’s appetite for evidence that public money invested in the sector delivers good value. The Manchester and London meetings, which were also attended by Steve Butcher of HEFCE and Ian Powling of Universities UK, were chaired respectively by Andrew McConnell OBE, Director of Finance at the University of Huddersfield and Chair of Uniac’s Board and by Andrew Murphy, Chief Finance Officer of the University of London.
While the government wants evidence of value for money, it has not articulated what form such evidence might take. The recent coalition government searched unsuccessfully for a single performance measure. HEFCE, however, wish to resist a burdensome drift towards a myriad of measures. HEFCE see current institutional value for money reports as unduly qualitative and focused on procurement, strategies and plans rather than reporting outcomes and benefits realised. Governing bodies have a stewardship role to ensure that their institutions are delivering, and demonstrating, value for money. A succinct suite of measures is needed for two distinct audiences: government and students. Some measures already exist, particularly for effectiveness. A task and finish group is proposed to formalise efficiency measures. Where possible these will use existing sector groups and data sources; will minimise the burden on smaller institutions; and recognise distinct institutional missions.
HEFCE will demonstrate anonymised exemplars of good value for money reports later this year. They will also issue guidance on value for money reporting – potentially for the 2017-18 report cycle. In the meantime, the need to be sensitive to individual institutional competitive positions will need to be recognised.