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Higher Education Governor Programme

PwC's bespoke programme for higher education governors delivers high value, free of charge online events to support and guide governors in their role

The UK’s higher education system is valued across the world for its standards and quality. However, the higher education sector is being challenged to respond to the impact of COVID-19 and, more than ever before, to articulate its contribution and value.

University governors have a key part to play in ensuring their institution is financially sound and well governed, but also to deliver change and shape the future of their institutions.

Our programme of bespoke webinars is specifically designed to support university governors in their role and to give them the opportunity to understand key issues and have an opportunity to exchange thoughts and views with peers. Free of charge, our webinars will draw on senior keynote speakers from the higher education sector as well as those who will bring insights from outside the sector.

Our events

The role of HE Governors in overseeing Academic and Teaching Quality

Date: 16 November
Time: 17.00 - 18.00 GMT

Governing bodies across the Higher Education Sector play a key role in overseeing academic standards and teaching quality, which is critical for ensuring the education received by students is of a high standard. The role of the governing body in this area has been defined in the Committee of University Chair's Code of Governance to include seeking and receiving assurance on:

  • The robustness and effectiveness of academic governance;
  • Academic standards and the integrity of academic qualifications; and
  • Specific academic risks (such as those involving partnerships and collaboration, recruitment and retention, data provision, quality assurance and research integrity) are being effectively managed.

The academic quality of an institution is also required to be maintained to meet the conditions of registration set out by the Office for Students. Just as importantly, the expectations of students, parents, employers and University partners on academic quality have continued to increase.

To discuss this topic further, we are delighted to be joined by:

  • Nic Beech, Vice Chancellor of Middlesex University,
  • Simone Buitendijk, Vice Chancellor of the University of Leeds and
  • Dr Nick Holland, Head of Provider Standards at the Office for Students.

Previous events

Reform of the UK’s corporate governance, reporting and audit system: Impact in Higher Education

15 July

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has recently published a consultation entitled "Restoring trust in audit and corporate governance". Within this consultation are a number of elements which could have a significant impact on Higher Education institutions, covering substantial reform of the corporate governance, reporting and audit system in the UK.

Higher Education governors will need to understand the impact of these recommendations and manage the added requirements. This webinar will talk governors through the proposed changes and actions governors should be taking to support institutional preparation.

As part of this session we will explore:

  • The potential changes to the definition of 'public interest entities' and the substantial challenges this might bring for universities;
  • A proposed new regime for reporting on internal controls around financial reporting;
  • The increased responsibilities the proposals set upon governors;
  • The impact of the proposals on your internal and external auditors; and
  • How your institutions can make preparations in advance of these changes.

The financial outlook for HEIs, following a year of unprecedented change

23 March

Faced with unprecedented challenges in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) have shown remarkable progress, adapting to exceptionally challenging circumstances. So what have HEIs done and how are they locking in the benefits from their adaptation to the pandemic for future years? What is the financial outlook for HEIs?

PwC interviewed over 30 CFOs from across HEIs to explore these questions and more, which we wish to share with you, alongside other informed perspectives.

Damien Ashford (PwC Partner who led the CFO interviews), will be joined by:

  • Nolan Smith (Director of Resources and Finance at the Office for Students);
  • Tom Smyth (Governor at Kingston University and Executive Vice Chairman at Rothschilds); and
  • Mary Bishop (Strategic Education Consultant and Executive Principal to The British College, Nepal).

Panellists will be sharing their views with you on the last 12 months and the financial outlook for HEIs.

During this session we will explore:

  • The positive changes made in response to the pandemic and how institutions are looking to embed these going forward.
  • The changes and challenges that CFOs told us they expect over the coming years.
  • How organisations are using this time to refocus their strategy or implement initiatives.
  • The role of Governors in these decisions.

Where next for Higher Education workforce transformation?

1 December

The global pandemic has accelerated the pace of change to the higher education workforce and universities will need to think differently about their workforce as they look to make cost savings while transforming ways of working and dealing with a new immigration system. This session explored:

  • Workforce transformation: How universities will need to think differently about the "employee deal" as they look to identify cost savings and transform ways of working at the same time. Areas like the organisation design, employee experience and fairness all come to the fore. We will discuss how you can create a workforce of the future which is engaged and motivated to deliver the strategic objectives of your university.
  • Pensions: Many universities already cite pensions as one of their key concerns, reflecting increasing costs and reporting requirements. While changes to the Local Government Pension Scheme may provide further options for some, volatile market conditions over recent years will have increased the burden for others. On top of this, many institutions are still adjusting to the extra cost of the Teachers' Pension Scheme and those with their own scheme will be feeling the pressure of a more engaged Pensions Regulator. We will provide an update on what these changes mean for universities and how they go about deciding upon a pensions strategy which balances recruitment and retention with cost control and predictability. 
  • Immigration: In January 2021, free movement will come to an end and a new immigration system will be put in place. This session will assess how universities will attract, recruit and retain talent in a global market. We will highlight the relevant red flags universities need to consider in relation to costs, onboarding and immigration compliance so that they are fully prepared to navigate the most significant changes to immigration in the last 40 years.

Privacy - is your university protecting its data?

7 October

The global pandemic has forced organisations to accelerate the adoption of new remote teaching practices, digital technologies and on-line ways of working. It is unclear to what extent this may have long-lasting effects on the traditional ‘campus model’ approach and whether we will see a rise in on-line only learning courses. Aside from the inherent privacy and security risks associated with remote working, more data about students is being gathered than ever before. Some of the information helps to provide personalised services to students; other uses of data enable institutions to track their student’s progress and success post-graduation. Additionally, institutions are part of the modern data environment where data is shared and processed by third parties or using external technology platforms that can present additional privacy risks. Institutions also gather an increasing amount of personal data as part of research programmes particularly in the social and medical sciences which adds to the complexity for already busy privacy teams.. The need to implement appropriate governance and privacy measures to protect personal information is therefore greater than ever before. This session will explore these common challenges and provide you with other data privacy compliance insights.

We are delighted to welcome Gareth Packham, Head of Information Security Management at Oxford Brookes University.

Social mobility - what makes a successful social mobility strategy?

3 September


  • Rt Hon Alan Milburn, Chair of the Social Mobility Foundation and former Cabinet Minister
  • Sir Michael Barber, Chair at the Office for Students

Social mobility is high on the agenda of many universities. In the last decade, universities have made a step change in improving access to higher education despite increases to tuition fees. With the introduction and scrutiny of Access and Participation plans, universities have a greater focus on improving access to existing models of provision for young people. However, as recognised by the Office for Students, this won’t meet the needs of all students, business or public services in future years.

To create a fairer society and for individuals to unlock their potential, universities must focus not only on access, but on delivering a successful experience to students during their studies.

What further changes are needed to create fair and equal access for other student cohorts? How should governors engage with stakeholders to understand the needs of their region? And what part should governors play in challenging progress?

We are delighted to be joined by the Rt Hon Alan Milburn, Chair of the Social Mobility Foundation, former Cabinet Minister and former Chair of the Social Mobility Commision and Sir Michael Barber, Chair at the Office for Students.

Read more about the discussion at this event on our blog

Navigating governance challenges in the next six months

11 August

Over the next six months, Governors will have to deal with a number of challenges as the sector looks to establish new ways of working following the COVID-19 pandemic. The CUC has recently released a new Audit Committee Code of Practice, which emphasises the role of the Audit Committee in institutional culture and sustainability. The role of the Audit Committee will be critical in providing independent challenge and scrutiny, in particular as the majority of universities will look to finalise their annual report and financial statements in the coming months.

This session will explore:

  • The new CUC Higher Education Audit Committee Code of Practice - what’s different and how Audit Committees can align with the good practice it explores; and
  • The role of Governors, management and auditors in relation to going concern in the financial statements.

Cyber security and the Higher Education sector

1 July

The coronavirus outbreak has caused an increase in both the likelihood and impact of cyber attacks, as organisations react rapidly to potentially significant operational and financial challenges.

The nature of the threat is also changing, with attackers exploiting uncertainty and unprecedented situations; from rapidly changing operations and processes to ensuring controls still take place even for remote working.

This session will explore:

  • Key cyber security risks higher education providers are facing and how these are evolving due to COVID-19.
  • How higher education providers look to assess and manage these risks.
  • The role of governors play in guiding the organisation through managing cyber security risk.

Exploring the role of virtual learning

23 June

As organisations look at what operations will look like during and beyond COVID-19, many universities are considering the role virtual learning will play in their future, particularly while campus learning is not possible.

What questions should governors be asking their senior management teams to ensure the model and methodology being proposed will deliver as it should?

This session will explore:

  • How do you effectively deliver virtual learning to best meet the needs of your student population?
  • How do you best support your academics to deliver content virtually?
  • What due diligence is needed to ensure you have robustly tested your proposed model from a delivery and a cost perspective?

Guiding Higher Education providers through financial uncertainty

17 June

Higher education providers are under pressure on all fronts, including a reduction in numbers of International Students, uncertainty over domestic students, increased costs from changing operations towards a virtual delivery model and keeping students and staff safe.

This session will explore:

  • The challenges and expectations for the coming Academic year.
  • How higher education providers can assess and monitor the financial position through this uncertain time.
  • Strategies and tactics to consider for good financial management and sustainability.
  • The role and responsibilities of governors during this period of financial uncertainty

Register your interest

If you are interested in attending this or future events or finding out more, please fill out the form below or contact Harvindar Kaur (below this form) if you have any questions.

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Contact us

Alison Breadon

Alison Breadon

Markets Senior Partner, East Midlands, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)7740 894817

Harvindar Kaur

Account Driver, PwC United Kingdom

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