skip to content

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. There are also a number of legal and regulatory requirements that the University must adhere to. 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. 

Although overall responsibility for compliance rests with the University of Cambridge as a corporate entity, the University's devolved operating model passes that responsibility down to Heads of Institutions. This means that we need mechanisms in place for providing assurance over activities undertaken by institutions that ensure external compliance requirements have been met. 

In 2023, a new Head of Institution Assurance Statement exercise was launched to all institutions during Easter Term following a successful pilot in 2022. This 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.

In November 2023, the Audit Committee agreed that the assurance statements should be an annual process and should be expanded to cover other areas of activity that ensure compliance with external legal or regulatory requirements.

Head of Institution Assurance Statements Exercise 2024

The 2024 Head of Institution Assurance Statement will be launched in early Easter Term 2024. Further information can be found here.