Students are demanding more from
universities and asking how their fees are being spent. Indeed, a recent survey found that 76% of students in
England feel they do not receive enough information on how universities
spend their money. And this isn’t just an issue in England, with 72% of
students in Wales, 73% in Northern Ireland and 67% in Scotland saying the
Universities are increasingly aware of
this heightened student and public interest, and the importance of doing
something to address misconceptions around their funding, their spending and
how this provides value to students.
Meanwhile the Office for Students
has indicated its expectation for higher education providers in
England to give clear information to students on their spending.
It is therefore more important than ever
that universities provide clear and accessible information on their income
and spending to address both public interest and expectations of key
stakeholders. Universities UK has produced a new guide for the
sector with clear
recommendations on how to present income and expenditure data to
The guide sets out best practice and
suggested approaches for universities to consider. In producing
this guide, the views of students and university staff have
been sought along with the views of key stakeholders in the sector.
It stresses the need for information on
income and expenditure to be presented in as clear and accessible manner as
possible, and that technical terminology should be avoided or explained so that
students can easily understand the data provided.
The guide also reflects feedback,
from students in particular, that while important in
improving transparency and accountability, data on income and
spending in itself does not reflect the value that spending
provides. As such, the guide suggests that
universities should consider explanations which tell a fuller story
of how their spending adds value.
If the sector is to make progress in
reducing the proportion of students that say they need further information on
this issue, universities will also need to do more than include information
on their websites. As such the guide recommends that
institutions should also work closely with their
students to ensure the information, they are providing is meaningful,
tailored to their specific needs and is communicated as effectively
as possible through a range of channels.
As the guide shows, there are
many good examples of universities presenting this information to students
in an accessible and clear way, but we recognise that further
progress is needed – particularly in improving coverage and
making this more consistent.
It is now time for the sector to take the initiative
in improving transparency and for universities to be
ambitious in their efforts to explain to students how they
are funded, how they spend their money and how this adds value to
For more information, read A guide to presenting institutional financial information to students.