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Integrated Thinking & Reporting

Fees, Public Good, Student expectations, Value for money, Effectiveness, Efficiency

It has never been more important to understand and articulate how your university creates and sustains value. 

Integrated Reporting is a strategic approach to communicating how an organisation uses resources to create value for its stakeholders.

Join us at the Let's Talk Value Conference 2020, 11 February 2020, Woburn House, London to discuss the integrated reporting framework and explore ways to tackle the current challenges around perceptions of value and how institutions communicate and report the value created through education and research. Find out more and book your place.

Advance HE Lets Talk Value Conference

The Leadership Foundation project, Integrated Thinking & Reporting, will help universities to explore, test and evaluate the principles of Integrated Reporting, building on from BUFDG’s work in the sector.

Supported by funding from Hefce, Hefcw and Northern Ireland the Leadership Foundation is working with 10 UK institutions on the Integrated Thinking & Reporting project. The project will use the IIRC framework as a starting point to consider the concept of value creation (and also what destroys it) in higher education project.

About the project

The Integrated Thinking & Reporting project will tackle the broad themes raised on the integrated thinking and integrated reporting journey, such as:

  • Articulating the universities business model and value creation model to underpin sustainable value creation
  • Accountability and stewardship for financial capital, intellectual capital, human capital, relationship capital, natural capital and manufactured capital
  • Value creation over different time horizons promoting a long term, sustainable approach to strategic decision making
  • The nature and quality of stakeholder relationships and how they can create or destroy value
  • Stakeholder perception of value and integrated reporting - particularly that of governors and students

Starting in October 2017 and running until the end of July 2018, the project aims to assess how the pilot participant universities can use the concepts and insights from integrated reporting to benefit strategic thinking and stakeholder engagement and to raise awareness within the sector more widely.

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Who is taking part?

The Leadership Foundation project is designed with a cross-directorate approach to ensure that integration across the university has the highest chance of success. The teams include senior finance professionals, leadership teams responsible for strategy and governors.

The 10 universities who will be taking part in the Integrated thinking and reporting project are; City, University of London; Leeds Beckett University; Abertay University; University of West London; Newcastle University; University of Winchester; SOAS; Sheffield Hallam University; University of Exeter and the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.

Read the full announcement on the universities taking part here.

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Steering group

The project is support by an expert steering group responsible for the general direction of the project, chaired by Chris Cobb, pro vice-chancellor (operations) and chief operating officer, University of London.

The steering group are representative both of the roles and functions touched by integrated thinking and reporting and the stakeholders who have a voice in the creation of value in universities. The full list of steering group members is as follows:

  • Chris Cobb, pro vice-chancellor (operations) and chief operating officer, University of London (Chair)
  • Phil McNaull, director of finance, University of Edinburgh
  • Julie Tam, assistant director of policy, Universities UK
  • Melvyn Keen, director of the Leadership Foundation's Strategic Finance programme and governor, GSM London
  • Carol Adams, professor of accounting and leading global academic expert on integrated reporting, Durham University Business School
  • Rhys Dart, chief executive, Students Union, University of Wales Trinity Saint David
  • Janet Haddock-Fraser, EAUC chair of trustees, professor of sustainability and leadership, EAUC and Manchester Metropolitan University
  • Tracy Bell-Reeves, deputy director leadership Development, Leadership Foundation
  • Kim Ansell, Managing Consultant, Leadership Foundation
  • Andy Shenstone, Director of Consultancy and Business Development, Leadership Foundation

Read the full announcement on the steering group here.

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Income of the ‘traditional’ higher education sector in the UK was almost £35 billion in 2015/16, and its expenditure £33 billion. Of that, over £18 billion was used to employ staff. In the same year, the UK’s universities educated and developed 2,300,000 students and generated £4.2 billion worth of knowledge exchange activities.

In this context it is clear that the creation of value in universities, the integrated thinking that leads to it and the reporting that communicates it is the domain of the whole leadership team.

In the UK, BUFDG began its first IR project in April 2016. The project developed an abridged IR framework – intended as a higher education specific introduction to the full framework - to assess the 2014/15 annual reports of six universities. The chosen institutions were fairly representative of the breadth of the sector in terms of geography, size, and specialisms. The final project report (with the introductory higher education framework as an annex) drew out what institutions were doing well, and where there was room for improvement.

In March 2017, BUFDG began the second phase of the project. For phase two, BUFDG and four universities agreed to join the International Integrated Reporting network. A specialist panel, convened by the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC), then reviewed the universities’ 2015/16 annual reports and financial statements against the full IR framework. The final project report summarised the findings of the panel’s reviews, with the intention that the lessons learned would be of use to them and other universities, wherever they are on their journey toward full IR implementation.

Between the two BUFDG projects, a new joint report by the World Bank, CIPFA, and the IIRC was published, aimed at public sector leaders. It found that adopting Integrated Reporting had a positive impact on public sector organisations. Whilst UK universities may not be strictly ‘public sector’, there’s much in the report that’s applicable to higher education, and it makes interesting reading (find out more here). Independent research undertaken for the report found that 92% of public sector leaders at organisations that had implemented Integrated Reporting said that it “increased understanding of performance and value creation at leadership level and employee level, as well as with the growing external stakeholder base”. 87% of leaders said that “providers of financial capital better understood their strategy” as a result.

Beyond the UK:

  • The University of Stellenbosch published its first integrated report in 2015.
  • An AICPA article suggests that 10 metrics in an Integrated report at Florida State University can provide assurance that “the spending of billions of dollars on education should be linked to what has been accomplished with those dollars” and such reporting is enhanced when both financial and non-financial reports have a high degree of independent assurance.

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If you would like to find out more on the Integrated Thinking & Reporting project please contact: Thahmina Begum, programme and projects coordinator, Leadership Foundation

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