Session 8: Understanding Finance

This was a half day optional session which I unfortunately missed due to illness, but I was able to study the materials and presentation after the event to get something from it. As a non-budget holder it was a session I was particularly looking forward to so it’s a shame I missed out.

The first part was devoted to how budgets are set and monitored at the university, including how they are divided up between faculties, services and departments, and the difference between controllable and non-controllable costs. Controllable costs were listed as staffing levels, contracts and income, purchase of materials and use of equipment, and the remainder of the session concentrated on this area as it is where budget managers have control. Non-controllable costs were given as overheads, rent, insurance and depreciation.

The second part of the session was about how to effectively manage a budget and how to make savings using the three E’s – Economy (cheaper suppliers, having the right staff), Efficiency (doing work faster, streamlining processes, using new technology) and Effectiveness (assessing the service provided, how customer’s needs are met, what new services we can offer).

There was a lot of emphasis placed on the need for budget managers to monitor their actual spent and make sure it stays within budget so as not to add any undue stress on any other parts of the university and to increase future investment. The advice given on how to do this was to pay attention to the daily details and find small savings which add up, and to use the resources available in the Finance and HR departments who can provide support by means of their knowledge of the systems, legislation and the big picture of the university’s whole budget.

Finally there was a discussion of the new finance and HR IT systems which are going to be implemented over the next two years and how those will help by giving budget managers direct access to live data and the ability to update it themselves, streamlining current processes and an efficiency saving in itself.