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Institutional assurance reviews

HEFCW's institutional assurance service is responsible for carrying out institutional assurance reviews in higher education (HE) institutions and other related work to evaluate the internal control, risk management and governance arrangements at the HE institutions which HEFCW funds. This work is carried out to provide assurance to HEFCW's Council, and to the Chief Executive as accounting officer, on the adequacy and effectiveness of those arrangements.

We set out our requirements for higher education institutions' accountability and audit arrangements in our Memorandum of Assurance and Accountability. HE institutions' compliance with the Memorandum of Assurance and Accountability is a condition of the annual grant we give to HE institutions in Wales and therefore mandatory for all institutions in receipt of that grant.

Memorandum of Assurance and Accountability

As part of our Strategic Engagement arrangements, we have moved to a more risk-based approach in the way we conduct institutional assurance reviews. This places greater emphasis on seeking assurance on the robustness of institutions' own internal processes.

Assurance related guidance

From time to time we issue specific guidance on audit or internal control matters in universities. We also refer universities to a range of external guidance on related matters.

Audit related circulars

We issue audit related circulars with advice on audit matters, guidance on control or value for money issues, or which draw attention to reports issued by the Wales Audit Office and the National Assembly for Wales's Audit Committee.

Where an issue raised has an actual or potential effect on the internal control environment or arrangements within a university, we expect the university's management to:
  • ensure that the internal controls actually in place are adequate
  • advise the institution's Audit and/or Finance Committee (or equivalent) of the receipt of the guidance and the action taken, even where there is clearly no further action required

Audit of Funds for the Purpose Guidance: Circular W00/77HE

There are also some Wales Audit Office (WAO) National Reports available relating to higher education.

Review of remuneration and severance governance processes

In 2005 HEFCW reviewed the processes by which universities in Wales established the salaries of the head of institution and other senior staff, and the process for determining severance arrangements.

Review of Remuneration and Severance Governance Processes for Senior Staff at HE institutions in Wales

Related companies guidance

HEFCW's Audit Code of Practice applies to all higher education institutions in Wales and also to their related companies. In December 2005 the UK funding bodies published guidance for HE institutions on related companies.

Fighting fraud in higher education

We refer universities in Wales to guidance produced by HEFCE in 1999 on preventing, detecting and investigating fraud. 

Universities should also be aware of HEFCE's fraud updates and BUFDG's fraud alerts produced in association with the National Anti-Fraud Network, more details of which can be found on the BUFDG website.

Internal audit arrangements in HE institutions

We endorse the internal audit approach set out in the Public Sector Internal Audit Standards (2013) which incorporates the mandatory elements of the Institute the Internal Auditors' International Professional Practices Framework (2009), which includes the Code of Ethics and International Standards. In addition, we endorse the Institute of Internal Auditors' Position Statement on Risk Based Internal Auditing (2003). These documents are available from CIPFA and the Institute of Internal Auditors.

The Council of Higher Education Internal Auditors (CHEIA) is the representative body for HE internal audit service providers in the UK. It provides a network for all internal audit professionals for their development and to widen best practice.

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