My week - 8 December 2014 - Jane Madeley
Finance Director Jane Madeley comments on the Annual Report and Accounts and looks to the future.
Four months into the new academic year it feels a bit strange still to be talking about the prior year when most of my day job is looking ahead to identify how we best equip ourselves to deliver the academic ambition articulated in our new Strategic Plan.It is pleasing that Council last week approved the University Annual Report and Accounts for 2013/14, showing that the University continues in good financial health, having generated a strong in-year surplus, and reporting a strengthening of the balance sheet.
Our consistent delivery against our financial plans, this year supported by recovery in student recruitment and research income growth, provides a solid base on which we can build. We can feel confident to commit to strategic investments: we can support new academic initiatives like the University Academic Fellowships and increased levels of capital investment to transform the campus over the next five years.
Discussion at Council challenged us as to whether we are being ambitious enough; what confidence we can give them that the investment cases that we present are the most important in delivering the strategic plan; and what will come next. It is good to be responding to those types of questions rather than being asked to be more cautious.
When looking at the sources of our income growth in recent years it is evident that we have a strategic need for a more ambitious level of research income. Many of our current investment cases are focused in this direction.
So whilst last weeks Council meeting took me back to describing the underlying drivers of last years financial result, more of my time last week was spent looking forward.
With the breadth of my portfolio spanning Strategy and Planning and IT, as well as Finance and Procurement, my attention is drawn into many areas. So despite the need to finalise year end reporting and prepare for a HEFCE Assurance Review, I also enjoyed:
- being involved in discussions around the proposal of the Joint Engineering School between Leeds and Southwest Jiaotong Universities
- developing our thinking about how we support the services in developing their strategies ahead of the Integrated Planning Exercise, to ensure that they are aligning their activities to support the new academic plans most effectively and efficiently
- working with a team within the Faculty of Medicine & Health as we seek to finalise contract negotiations on our successful consortium bid to provide the Clinical Research Network Coordinating Centre for the National Institute for Health Research over the next five years, a £90m contract.
I strongly believe that the joined-up conversation that we have within the University about academic and financial performance plays an important part in providing our Council with the confidence that whilst we continue to operate in particularly uncertain times, we are effective in identifying emerging risks and financial pressures and our balance sheet strength provides us with the resilience and flexibility to manage through them.