Higher education institutions (HEIs) work in a complex environment, and are subject to considerable regulation. A governing body should satisfy itself that the instution is complying with the requirements placed upon it. As HEIs are required to make returns to many organisations and agencies this is not a simple task.
Some institutions have compiled a summary of the returns they make each year in an effort to provide governors with an overview of what information they are required to collect, compile and submit to an external agency. Entries in the sumary report typically identify the nature and purpose of the return, which part of the organisation is responsible for compiling the return, the submission date and who authorises submission of the return on behalf of the institution.
An institution will, for example, need to make returns about, for example, its finances, the student body, its staff and the estate. Given the detailed nature of the returns made, the task of ensuring the returns submitted are accurate and timely is often delegated to the institution's audit committee. The Committee may carry out is work by sampling at random the data returns being made by institution in order to test and, subject to the results of the testing, offer assurance to the governing body as the accuracy of the returns being made by the institution.
Most HEIs are also charities, and governors therefore need to have due to regard to their duties and responsibilties as a trustee.
For further information about the requirements in respect of compliance and regulation placed on institutions review Governors' briefing note No. 5: Regulation and compliance
Many of the data returns submitted by institutions are made to the Higher Education Statistical Agency. Higher education providers are expected to meet the code of practice for higher education data collections.
To assist trustees of charities in England and Wales to understand their duties and responsibilities, the Charity Commission has published The Essential Trustee.
More generally, the Charity Commission (CC) issues guidance on different aspects of a charity's operation, including, for example:
While the CC's jurisdiction covers England and Wales, and most higher education institutions are 'exempt charities' (i.e.not directly regulated by CC), the guidance offers many helpful insights into the management of all charities. For example, CC35 stresses that in relation to a trading subsidiary the interest of the parent charity are paramount and a subsidiary must be established where the planned activities represent a significant risk to the assets of the charity. Trustees are also expected to routinely monitor the performance of all trading subsidiaries.
In spring 2016, the CC has also issued a regulatory alert on commercial partnerships and agreements with charities and their trading subsidiaries. The CC is concerned that charities need to be aware that any relationship with a commercial organisation can affect public trust and confidence in the charity. The CC is asking trustees to review any existing relationships to satisfy themselves they are in the charity's best interests.
Examples of recent and additional legal requirements placed on institutions include:
The Bribery Act 2010, which came into force on 1 July 2011. PWC has assessed the implications of the act for higher education institutions:
A 'prevent duty' was placed on higher (and further) education institutions following the passing of the Counter-Terriorism and Security Act 2015