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Departmental assurance

The Office for Students requires the University to meet certain conditions of its registration as a Higher Education provider, including demonstrating that the University has adequate and effective financial, operational and governance arrangements. The University's Audit Committee is responsible for checking the University's arrangements are in place, by seeking assurance over policies and processes and whether they are operating effectively. It reports annually to Council with an opinion on how well these arrangements are operating. 

The devolved structure of the University means that responsibility rests with Heads of Institutions for implementing certain policies at a local level. The University's internal auditors used to run an annual departmental assurance survey which provided assurance over common areas of risk managed at a departmental level. The survey was paused during 2020-21.

A new approach & 2022 pilot

In 2022, a Head of Institution assurance statement was piloted with a selection of institutions during Easter Term and the summer vacation. This new approach was developed in collaboration with the internal auditors and with input from departmental colleagues to understand how new approaches might impact those at a departmental level. The Head of Institution assurance statement was designed in line with the following principles:

  • It should be easy and straightforward for departmental colleagues to complete, drawing on existing forms of assurance where possible.
  • It should provide greater clarity over expectations on departments, build a better understanding of accountability and provide a framework within which assurance can be provided to the Audit Committee for responsibilities that sit with Heads of Institutions.
  • It should serve as a mechanism for institutions to demonstrate that things are working well, but also provide opportunity for departments to identify areas for improvement and to highlight areas where further support, tools or guidance is required or where expectations are unclear, in order to drive real change and improvement across the University.

Feedback from those who took part in the pilot was broadly positive. Departmental administrators commented that the statements provided "a timely reminder of some of the regular statutory/mandatory activities that institutions should be doing" and that it "felt more focused on key areas than in [the departmental assurance survey] previous years".

In November 2022, the Audit Committee approved the rollout of the assurance statements to all departments during Easter Term 2023.

Head of Institution assurance statement pilot 2022-23

The Head of Institution assurance statement will be rolled out to all departments during Easter Term 2023. Further information can be found here.