Review of Bursar’s Area 2007-2008

The Committee for Administration and Services Quality Improvement
An Coiste Feabhais Riaracháin agus Seirbhísí
The Administration and Services Quality Assurance Programme
Report to Údarás na hOllscoile
Review of
Bursar’s Area
Review Group Visit
Follow Up Meeting
September 2008
– 18th October 2007
14th May 2008
This Report was compiled for members of Údarás na hOllscoile, NUI Galway and its
committees as a readily accessible but comprehensive source of information on the above
review, its context and its outcomes.
Quality Office, November 2008
Report to Údarás – Review of Bursar’s Area 2007–2008
1. Overview
1.1 Mission & Aims of the Bursar’s Area
The overarching Mission of the Bursar’s Area is to provide top quality Financial, Management
Information, Procurement and Commercial Services to the University Community in support of
its Strategic Aims.
The Mission of the Bursar’s Office is to act as Chief Financial Adviser to the President, the
Governing Authority and its Finance Resource Committee and to be responsible for the overall
Financial Planning and Financial Management of the University in accordance with the
decisions of the Governing Authority.
Report regularly to the Finance Resource Committee
Present Regular Income and Expenditure Account Records
Undertake Financial Planning Exercises including detailed Annual Estimates
Administer all Income and Expenditure
Assist the President in the Financial Management of all physical assets
Maintain appropriate financial records
Ensure confidentiality of financial affairs
Support the work of the University Management Team
Individual Units within the Bursar’s Area have their own detailed Aims & Objectives.
1.2 Background
The Bursar’s Role is laid out in Statute and covers all matters related to University Finances and
matters related thereto. University Expenditure totals €230 million per annum including Core
€155m, Contract Research €45m, Capital €20m, and Commercial €10m.
The Units for which the Bursar has responsibility are Commercial Services, Financial
Accounting, Management Accounting (including Research Accounting and Media Services),
Management Information Services, Pensions & Investments and Procurement.
1.3 Progress to date
Operational Planning is well embedded within the Bursar’s Area and includes routine planning
of business cycles e.g. budgeting, monthly reporting, statutory reporting and audit, scheduling of
routine workflows, staffing and resourcing.
Major examples of progress over the last few years include:
 Benchmarking of Intervarsity Student Populations in 1995, this had led to growth in full
time student numbers and has increased University Income.
Report to Údarás – Review of Bursar’s Area 2007–2008
Establishment of a limited company (AMT) to manage the Student Centre on a
commercial basis.
Strategic Review of the University’s Financial Position and Systems recommended the
adoption of Devolved Resource Management Structures, amendments to Resource
Allocation Systems and Strategies for income generation & fundraising, corporate
governance and systems of internal control, financial management systems, performance
indicators and benchmarking.
EURO Project was established in 1998 to plan for the conversion from the pound to the
Management Information Services Development Programme reviewed student
administration, human resources, payroll, finance, estates management and executive
information systems.
Review of Catering Facilities and Operations benchmarked activities in Galway with
those in other Irish Universities, leading to an increase in net returns.
Establishment of Procurement Function
Review of the Financial Accounting Office in 2000. A professional Accountant was
recruited to manage the introduction of GAAP Accounting, the growth in subsidiary
company activity and related tax planning and VAT accountability.
Review of Pensions in 2000 following the introduction of the Protection of Employees
Acts in 2001 & 2003, to ensure that related responsibilities and liabilities were
recognized, costed & funded.
Review of Research Accounting Function in 2004 resulting in increased resources being
made available to the Research Office and the establishment of a Professional
Accountant with responsibility for SFI Funded Units.
1.4 Staff
The Bursar’s Area has a total staffing of 60 personnel spread over the Bursar’s Office,
Commercial Services, Financial Accounting Office, Management Accounting Office,
Management Information Services, Pension & Investments Office and the Procurement &
Contracts Office.
1.5 Accommodation and Facilities
 The majority of the Departments within the Bursar’s Area are dispersed within the
Quadrangle Building, with some offices of the Management Information Services and
the Procurement & Contracts Office being located in Block S.
 Áras na MacLeinn Teo/Student Centre Limited consists of an indoor sports complex
housing 2 squash courts, 2 racquetball courts, a climbing wall and Sports hall.
 The Conference& Catering Office is located in Áras Fáilte.
 The Media Services Centre is located in the Arts/Science Building
 The Fee’s Office (part of the Financial Accounts Department) is located in Áras Uí
Chathail along with other student services.
Report to Údarás – Review of Bursar’s Area 2007–2008
2. Review Group Visit and Report
The report arises from a visit by a Review Group to the Bursar’s Area on 15 – 18 October 2007. The Bursar’s Area
had already prepared and submitted a ‘Self Assessment Report’ that, with other documentation, was made available
to the review team in advance of the visit.
The Review Group consisted of: Mr Norman Bennett, Director of Finance, Queen’s University, Belfast. (Chair); Mr
Damian Harte, Head of IT, Tesco Ireland Ltd, Dublin; Mr Gary Kennedy, Business Consultant, Kennedy
Associates, Rathmichael, Co Dublin; Professor Seamus Collins, Area of Accounting & Finance, NUI, Galway; Ms
Mary Ryan, Director of Academic Administration, NUI, Galway (Rapporteur).
2.1 Summary and Main Recommendations from Report
The Review Group was impressed by the commitment and energy of the staff in the Bursar’s
Area. The quality of the self-assessment report is evidence of a strong desire to improve
performance, maintain financial control and respond to the growing demands of the wider
University. Much good practice was evidenced during our visit and there are many success
stories which should be celebrated and shared thus enhancing the reputation and profile of the
Staff external to the Bursar’s Area spoke highly of their interaction on a one-to-one basis with
staff from the various sections and there are many examples of good working arrangements
stretching across functional and organizational units.
Many of the current difficulties outlined above are as a result of the significant growth in
University activity over recent years. This coupled with increasing demands from internal users,
students, research funders and other stakeholders has stretched the current resources and systems
almost to breaking point.
The recommendations contained in this report must be set within the above context and are
offered as a constructive attempt to address current problems and ensure improved and
sustainable arrangements going forward.
Main Recommendations
The creation of a web site for the Bursar’s Area which identifies the vision and mission,
delineates the key functions and breadth of service delivery and has profiles with pictures
on all personnel. Additionally, it recommends ‘get to know’ you sessions with identified
customer groups.
That a monthly management meeting be re-established for the Bursar’s Area with
mandatory attendance and an agreed agenda encompassing items from the
recommendations in this report, to track progress, as well as a focus on employee issues,
appraisal and development.
That a formalised communications structure, within the Bursar’s Area, should be
established. Creating a forum, where management and employees can appraise each other
of current successes, events, issues and developments and share experiences and problems,
will lead to a better informed and motivated workforce. Achievements should be
recognised and celebrated.
That a prioritised list of these areas for improvement should be agreed and Cross
functional work groups established with a mandate to recommend process improvements
and changes in work practices to streamline these areas and make efficiency gains. These
should be championed by the Bursar and their progress regularly reviewed at management
Report to Údarás – Review of Bursar’s Area 2007–2008
That all functions within the Bursar’s Area identify and establish appropriate metrics that
reflect the value added by their activities to their customer base. These need to be agreed
with the customers, hurdle rates set and performance measured and published against these
hurdle rates. In certain functions, where customers are clearly recognisable, a balanced
scorecard approach should be considered which will underpin service level agreements
with these customers.
That Financial accounting should engage in a top down review of its role and activities. It
needs to clearly identify where the main value add of its service offering does and should
Through a combination of process redesign, system enhancement and optimisation and
outsourcing eliminate non value add activities. There should be a realignment of its
resource base with its core focus – financial accounting and reporting.
The streamlining and modification of reporting systems to deliver compliant and
comprehensive documentation is essential.
That a one-stop-shop for research contracts management be established. This unit must be
proactive and adequately resourced. It should be designed to include all support groups
using accurate and up to date detailed information to support researchers’ needs from
developing a bid through resource attainment to managing the funds flow when the
research is concluded.
That UMT consider the future of how information technology should be structured,
especially in light of today’s fragmentation and the lack of an integrated strategy.
That the accounting function should take a leadership role in policy setting for the
University particularly in the areas of planning and investment decisions. A prioritised list
of projects with all necessary resources to deliver should be presented to the UMT for
approval as part of the budget process and clearly communicated. Other non budgeted or
planned activity should cease to take place.
The establishment of user groups as a means of influencing IT development. IT
investment decisions must be underpinned by contribution from the users/customers of IT
A thorough analysis of Agresso focusing primarily on whether or not the solution meets
the requirements of its users. The output of this analysis should form part of the short term
IT investment program.
That consolidating IT support is considered as the current duplication could be adding
unnecessary operating costs.
Establishing Service Level Agreements, which should be used to measure performance,
speed of issue resolution and the availability of the MIS helpdesk which is aligned to the
working day.
That a comprehensive user training programme should be initiated and sustained and
consideration given to establishing a help desk for user queries.
Producing a “How to Guide” to all budget holders within the University to ensure common
understanding of financial management in NUI Galway.
The development of longer-term financial forecasts (say up to 5 years) which will
demonstrate the financial implications of proposed plans and scenarios and also include
the revenue consequences of planned capital investments.
That the Bursar’s Area works with the Vice-President for Physical Resources to examine
creative ways to generate additional funding for investment in capital projects with out
undermining the financial strength of the Institution.
Report to Údarás – Review of Bursar’s Area 2007–2008
That a system of business planning including the development of investment appraisals be
further developed. The Review Group further recommends that the Bursar’s Area and the
Vice-President for Physical Resources should work together to develop such a system.
That the Bursar’s Area develops a rhythm of regular reports to UMT and FRC based on an
agreed format which is meaningful and understandable to members. The report should be
comprehensive and include key performance indicators which facilitate a focus on the
significant factors impacting on the financial health of the University.
That the opportunity afforded by the introduction of revised structures within the
University should be used by the Bursar’s Area working with the Academic Planning and
Resources Committee to radically review the budget setting process. Budgets should be
activity based, linked to income generated and budget managers should have devolved
authority within the context of the overall academic plan to manage their budgets across
financial years. The system should include incentives linked to the strategic objectives of
the institution, rewarding areas where income is growing and costs are controlled.
That the University seeks to find innovative solutions to address the unit’s accommodation
issues in order to remove these barriers to goal achievement.
That while this may or may not be controllable by University Management, the Review
Group recommends that the issue with regard to pension arrangements for contract
research staff be clarified as quickly as possible to eliminate uncertainty for fixed-term and
part-time employees of the University.
That a strategic plan be developed by Áras na Macléinn Teo which exploits the
commercial potential to market all campus facilities on an integrated basis.
3. Action Plans
Follow up Meeting
9.30 a.m. on Wednesday 14th May 2008
in the Physiology Lecture Theatre
Present: Prof J Gosling Director of Quality (Chair), Prof J Ward (Acting Registrar), Ms M O’Riordan, Mr K
Warnock, Mr P De Burca, Ms M Ryan, Prof S Collins, Mr N Bennett, Mr G Kennedy, Mr C McNairney, Mr J
Gaffney, Mr G O’Broin, Ms M Dooley, Ms G Whelan, Ms M Clifford, Ms C Keane, Ms O Timon, Ms A Duggan,
Ms T Lydon, Ms E Toner, Ms M Logan, Ms C Fennell, Ms M Nohilly, Ms S Glennon, Ms M Hornibrook, Ms T
Byrne, Ms M Watters, Ms A Melia, Ms K Hynes, Ms S Prenga, Ms M B Sweeney, Ms C O’Farrell, Ms A Keane,
Ms D Moran, Ms F McDonagh, Mr L Mc Dwyer, Mr T McArdle, Ms E Callanan, Ms T O’Neill, Ms A Corless, Mr
T O’Cainte, Mr S O’Dea, Ms C Flannery, Ms C O’Connor, Ms C Mulgannon, Ms K Costello, Ms M Ni Dhireain,
Ms R Rafferty, Ms C Gill, Ms C Feeney, Ms A Cullinane, Ms M Linnane (of Quality Office in attendance).
Action Plan for the Bursar’s Area
Financial reporting by the Bursar to UMT/FRC (operating/recurrent income and
expenditure, capital programme, quarterly budget versus actual, by division etc.) will be
revised by December 2008, with feedback from UMT and FRC.
Preparation by the Bursar of a Five Year Financial Forecast for the Operating/recurrent
income and expenditure has commenced and, in consultation with UMT, will be
finalised by the end of July 2008.
Report to Údarás – Review of Bursar’s Area 2007–2008
The Five Year Financial Forecast for Capital Expenditure is being revised, and, in
consultation with the Vice President for Physical Resources, will be updated at least
quarterly from June 2008 onwards. In this context, creative and financially sound ways
to generate additional funding for investment in capital projects will be sought
A new planning and investment appraisal model will be developed by the Bursar in
consultation with the Vice President for Physical Resources and all relevant parties, and
presented to UMT for approval before June 2009.
In relation to the new Resource Allocation Model being introduced by the HEA for the
calculation of the block grant, Management Accounting is applying a parallel approach
to the development of budgeting and reporting models for Colleges, Schools etc., which
are due for completion by December 2008.
The overall area and all units within the Bursar’s Area will have complementary
websites that identify missions and key functions, delineate services and have
photographs of key personnel by December 2008. These will be appropriately crosslinked and reviewed regularly.
A formalised internal communication structure is being established with an annual
programme of meetings that began in April 2008.
a. Monthly Management Meetings have been re-established with agreed agendas and an
explicit expectation of full attendance.
b. There will an Annual Forum of all staff, and the first was held in June 2008.
c. Each individual unit will schedule equivalent meetings twice per annum in April and
September, all commencing in September 2008, at the latest.
Internal ‘Process Improvement’, ‘Implementation’ and ‘Resource budgeting’ plans that
take all units and the relevant actions below into account will be developed and
submitted to UMT for approval by March 2009.
a. As appropriate, each plan will cite appropriate metrics to act as performance and
effectiveness indicators and take into account customer and stakeholder views.
b. In parallel, all units within the Bursar’s Area will review and improve their processes
for external communications, including the assignment of customer and stakeholder
liaison responsibilities to designated staff.
c. Areas identified as needing improvement will be prioritised, persons or groups
assigned responsibility for each, and targets and deadlines agreed.
d. More specifically, Financial Accounting will update and transform the content on the
FAQ section of their web to create a ‘How to Guide” for budget holders.
Management Accounting will also develop a comprehensive and user-friendly guide
detailing appropriate contacts, timings and security requirements. Both are due for
completion by March 2009.
Tionól Teoranta will, by November 2008, prepare a strategic plan for campus
commercial activities that will aim to exploit the commercial potential of all campus
facilities (when not otherwise in use) on an integrated basis.
Financial Accounting will appoint an external expert to conduct a review and to report
on its activities by December 2008, including:
Report to Údarás – Review of Bursar’s Area 2007–2008
a. Definitions of roles and activities, and realignment of resources to its core focus —
financial accounting and reporting,
b. Where the principal values of its services lie, or should lie,
The use of Agresso in all its standard applications by general, academic and research
administrators will be given improved training support for beginners, ‘refreshers’ and
more advanced users, with the full range being available from February 2009.
A concerted effort is being made by Management Accounting to improve the services
provided by the Research Accounts Office to the growing research-active community in
the University.
a. While liaising with PIs and MIS, all activities of the Research Accounts Office will
be reviewed, to identify systematic solutions to issues that are of concern to holders
of external research contracts, by November 2008
b. In the short term, by end of July 2008, the Research Accounts Office will relocate to
a larger space at Dangan, allowing the office to deploy additional resources. (See
also Action 4 for University Management.)
c. The introduction of Agresso 5.5 (planned for December 2008) will be preceded by
meetings with researcher user groups to re-determine general and specific
system/reporting requirements, deficiencies in the existing systems and training
needs for all user categories. All of these will incorporated in the planned upgrade or
implemented in parallel.
The Pension Investment Officer, together with the HEA and the Bursar will work to
ensure that before 31 August 2008, all eligible staff will be enrolled in the Model
Scheme. The Pensions Officer will then advise each relevant member of staff of their
pensionable service, details of ancillary scheme, the cost of purchasing additional years
The Director of MIS will facilitate the establishment of ‘user groups’ covering all of the
major systems and areas that it supports, the members of which will be agreed with the
relevant heads of function by September 2008.
The Director of MIS will initiate an internal review of the functions of the MIS helpdesk
with respect to how it interacts with the Computer Services helpdesk, and, in
consultation with the Director of Computer Services, will act to achieve synergy between
the two services to be completed by September 2008.
The Director of MIS has initiated the process of developing Service Level Agreements
with the main customers of MIS, and by March 2009 will have developed an agreed set
of performance indicators for the services provided by MIS.
Action Plan for University Management
1. UMT will consider a new system of ‘activity based budgeting’ for internal cost centres
with devolved authority to Budget Managers and incentives linked to strategic objectives
with a view to completing it by December 2009.
2. Given the ever-growing importance of a coherent ICT strategy for the University, UMT
will initiate a process leading to necessary changes in organisational structures and
responsibilities, and the development of an ICT Strategy for the University as a whole.
Report to Údarás – Review of Bursar’s Area 2007–2008
3. The Vice President for Student Services and Human Resources and the Bursar will
instigate a review into the inter-dependent operations of the HR Payroll system and
related Financial Accounts systems with the objective of identifying opportunities for
efficiencies and improvements to be completed by December 2008.
4. In addition to the imminent relocation of the Research Accounts Office to leased space,
UMT and the Vice President for Physical Resources will seek to find innovative shortterm and more permanent long-term solutions to the unit’s accommodation issues in
order to remove barriers to goal achievements before the end of July 2008. In particular,
a more centrally located one-stop shop for research-contracts management (involving
both the Research Office and Research Accounts) will be considered when a new
research building (due for completion by 2011) is at the appropriate planning stage.
Approved by: Bursar, Ms M Dooley, 14 October, 2008
Approved by: Rúnaí um Ghnothaí Acadúla, Dr S MacMathúna, 29 October, 2008
Approved by: Registrar, Prof J Ward, 30 October, 2008
Approved by: Vice President for Physical Resources, Mr K Warnock, 15 October, 2008
Approved by: Vice President for Student Services & Human Resources, Ms M O’Riordan,
17 October 2008
Approved by: Vice President for Research, Prof T Smith, 28 October, 2008
Director of Quality
Finalised: 3rd November 2008