Head of Department & Directorate Financial Responsibilities

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As Head of Department in your Professional Service or Faculty area, you are responsible for overseeing the department's finances and ensuring Budget delivery targets are met each year. Strategic planning and oversight of spending across all areas of your department will be key to management of the financial responsibilities which come with your leadership position.

Financial planning & the Budget-setting process

The University’s financial year runs from 1 August to 31 July.

The Budget-setting process is a critical step in the University’s financial management and reporting cycle and sits alongside Annual Planning (Strategy & Planning) and Workforce Planning (Human Resources) as an essential annual strategic plan. Annual Planning and Workforce Planning should be conducted in the context of Financial Sustainability.

All staff members have a responsibility to support the budget-setting process, and once concluded, to deliver to the agreed Budget. The Head of Department/Directorate may need to adjust priorities as necessary through the year to stay within the budget envelope.

Budget setting is complex due to the very dynamic environment in which our sector operates, and the timing of certainty over key income streams. For example, Funding Council allocations are often not confirmed until May or June, whereas Tuition Fee income will not be known until September of the Budget year.

Not only is the annual Budget an essential tool to ensure the University meets financial objectives in the year ahead, provision of the Budget and at least one year of additional financial forecasting is a requirement of the Scottish Funding Council by the end of June each year. There is a meeting of the University’s Court in that month, during which the current year forecast for the third quarter (Q3) is reviewed, together with the Budget for the coming year and any additional forecast years.

The Budget timetable will typically see delivery of an initial view of income across the main streams:

  • Funding Council grants
  • Tuition fees
  • Research grants and contracts
  • Other income

At the beginning of the calendar year in which the Budget shall be approved. The Finance team, supported by the Strategy & Planning team for Faculty intake targets, will seek inputs across income generating areas which may be refined through the Budget setting process.

The University’s largest expense category is Staff costs, and this is the starting point for expenditure review. The Finance team typically take a view of monthly salary costs for existing staff at the beginning of the Budget setting period and build the view at Faculty/Senior Officer level, to Department and Directorate level with inflationary impacts of increments and pay awards built in, together with agreed staffing changes. Inputs will be sought from Departments/Directorates regarding other operating and capital expenditure costs. When planning expenditure at all levels of the University, anticipated income will be a key consideration together with the University’s need to deliver an operating surplus to support investment activities.

Budget management

Once the Budget has been approved by Court in June the Finance team shall communicate budgeted levels of expenditure, and income levels, to all budget holders in advance of the beginning of the new Financial year on 1 August. Budget allocations shall also be made to sub-projects in the University’s Financial Management System (FMS).

As Head of Department/Head of Directorate, you shall have a responsibility to manage budget delivery through the year. This may include, but won’t be limited to, the following activities:

  • Setting department strategic priorities in alignment with those of the University and with the support of your Dean/Senior officer   
  • Close working with your Finance Business Partner or Management Accountant to understand overall Department/Directorate Budget commitments and delivery
  • Support Finance colleagues in the development of multi-year Budgets and financial plans to support long-term goals
  • Forecast expected income and expenditure and identify potential savings and efficiencies
  • Establish and communicate clear policies and procedures in your Department/Directorate for Budget management 
  • Monitor Department/Directorate spending regularly to identify any deviations from the Budget
  • Analyse financial reports provided by finance colleagues to understand causes behind Budget variances
  • Take corrective actions as needed if overspending occurs in areas within your Department/Directorate
  • Ensure Department/Directorate staff understand their roles and responsibilities in Budget management
  • Hold Department/Directorate staff accountable for adhering to financial policies and staying within Budgets

Financial forecasting & reporting

Progress to deliver the annual Budget is monitored throughout the year by the Finance Team with monthly reporting to Performance Development Group and Executive Team. The University Court will be presented with the full year Financial Forecast compared to the Budget at the end of each quarter.

Other responsibilities

The pursuit of University strategic priorities embodied in financial and other targets, is a key responsibility for Directorate/Department leaders. As such you will be required to manage the following:

Income

  • Where your Department/Directorate generates income, please ensure that invoices are issued to customers in a timely manner
  • Where approaches are to be made to outside bodies for support for research projects, or where contracts are to be undertaken on behalf of such bodies, financial implications must have been appraised by the Director of Research & Knowledge Exchange Services in advance, should be developed on a Full Economic Cost basis, and contracts can only be accepted by the Research & Knowledge Exchange Services team

Expenditure

  • Review/sign off of Approval to Appoint (ATA) forms for the appointment of staff in your area in advance of any recruitment activities taking place
  • Forward self-certification forms in a timely manner to the Payroll team in the event of staff illness
  • Approval of requisitions, expense claims, P Card and T Card reconciliations, budget transfers, virements, Requests for Payment (RFP) etc
  • Implement controls and approval procedures for expenditure and contracts
  • Ensure budget is available before any commitment is made to procure goods or services on behalf of the University
  • Ensure appropriate negotiation with suppliers to deliver best value for the University and engage the University’s Procurement team (enquiries@strath.ac.uk) where necessary
  • Ensure that invoices issued by suppliers are checked for correctness, that goods and services have been delivered and that invoices are paid in accordance with the University’s standard payment terms
  • Explore opportunities to reduce operating costs through improved efficiencies

Risk Management

  • Recognise the need for the University to have adequate insurance in place for its business and ensure early engagement with the Insurance team (insurance-services@strath.ac.uk) if activities change or significant changes to assets occur. This team should also be notified of any events which could result in the need to make a claim on an existing policy,
  • Ensure compliance with Scottish and all other relevant Procurement regulations
  • Regularly review department transaction approval routes such as delegated authority, FastTrack rights in FMS, P card access etc
  • Report any fraudulent activity to the University Secretary

Asset management

  • Consider space utilisation as a means by which the University can achieve the best return on assets and therefore support successful delivery of its strategic objectives
  • Ensure the appropriate recording of assets in the Real Asset Management System (RAM) or a local register. You are responsible for the safeguarding, monitoring and verification of physical assets.

Sustainability

  • Support the University’s progress to Net Zero by approving Department business travel requested through the Approval to Travel (ATT) form only where it is absolutely necessary
  • Require that staff use the Financial Management System appropriately, attaching receipts and ensuring the correct level of detail is provided in all transactions recorded
  • Request that supplier online catalogues via the Parabilis Marketplace (accessed via FMS) are used for the purchase of Department/Directorate goods and services

Operational processes

  • Require that staff use the Financial Management System appropriately, attaching receipts and ensuring the correct level of detail is provided in all transactions recorded
  • Request that supplier online catalogues via the Parabilis Marketplace (accessed via FMS) are used for the purchase of Department/Directorate goods and services

Finance support

The main point of contact for your area will be your Finance Business Partner or Management Accountant who will provide guidance, support and reporting through the financial year.

  • Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences: Lindsey McGonigal (Finance Business Partner) and Jessica Faulds (Assistant Finance Business Partner)
  • Faculty of Science: James O’Neill (Finance Business Partner) and Michael Bonner (Assistant Finance Business Partner)   
  • Faculty of Engineering: Fiona Hart (Finance Business Partner) and Danuta Kuc-MacIejewska (Assistant Finance Business Partner)
  • Strathclyde Business School: Martin Cairns (Finance Business Partner) and Alastair Harvey (Assistant Finance Business Partner)
  • Estates: Tim Faehnrich (Finance Business Partner) and Lorna Richardson (Assistant Finance Business Partner)
  • CFO/CPO/CCO: Jennifer Atkinson (Management Accountant)
  • CDIO/UCO/US/Principals Office: Margaret O’Neill (Management Accountant)

Your Management Accountant or Finance Business Partner will be glad to answer any questions you may have regarding budgetary or any other financial responsibilities which you may need to manage in your position as Head of Department or Head of Directorate.

Policy guidance

The University web pages contain links to key financial policies: