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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Understandably everyone’s top priority has been the health and wellbeing of our family, friends, of our students and colleagues in Colleges and Professional Services and this will remain so over the coming weeks. But we also have to pay attention to the state of the University’s finances as these underpin everyone’s job security.  As a result of our combined efforts over the past few years to generate increasing income and margin through efficiencies and re organisations we are in a more financially secure position than many others, however, in light of all the uncertainties there are a number of issues we need to collectively consider.

Our cash balances are high (over £153m as at 04/2020), we have access to a large low-cost credit facility (£50m) should we need it and we expect to take advantage of Government financial support schemes when details of these become clearer. Our regulators/funders, the OfS (£13m teaching grant) and UKRI (£26m QR-grant and individual UKRI funded research grants and contracts) are working with the sector to support financial security. When things settle down we will be reviewing the potential to recover costs of aborted activity through insurance but this will take time to review and  it won’t be straight forward as insurance companies themselves are under pressure.

Each month we spend £22m on payroll costs and £12m on non-pay costs such as student financial support, paying suppliers etc. Expenditure at this level is only sustainable while we have healthy cash balances, while income continues to flow as we deliver our teaching and research and if we press down on all unnecessary expenditure.

At this point we expect to be able to complete the current academic year, fulfil our teaching and learning obligations and therefore earn and retain entitlement to tuition fee income. As a result of the incredible effort by academics and Professional Services colleagues in implementing on-line delivery and assessments we expect to receive £60m from the Student Loan Company in May as part of the usual 50% instalment of current year home/EU undergraduate tuition fees.

We are planning to defer as much capital expenditure as we possibly can to preserve cash and protect jobs.

Everyone has a part to play. We are asking you to minimise all discretionary expenditure. However, we do not want to impede our ability to support the teaching and learning experience as this protects our biggest source of income. Similarly we should protect our research income streams so expenditure on research grants and contracts should not be impeded either.

Please don’t raise purchase orders for the new financial year where these can be avoided if they are at risk of not being able to be fulfilled. Please contact your College/Service Financial Planning & Reporting team if you are unsure what to do.

Please do not pay for goods and services in advance where you have any doubts or concerns about the ability of the company to fulfil the order. If in doubt please contact procurement-operations@exeter.ac.uk.

Heads of Finance also have access to a Covid-19 Cost Capture form which provides a mechanism for budget holders to alert us to unavoidable costs, deferral of costs or loss of income streams. It’s important we capture material impacts so we have a better understanding of our financial shape.

Looking to next financial year you should not simply assume that unspent monies this year can be rolled forward into next year.

Our biggest financial challenge won’t be in the 4 remaining months of  this financial year, it will be next year  when we better understand the impact Covid-19 has on student recruitment.  In 2020/21 our budget for international tuition fee income is £96m, from home EU students it’s £170m – these, and other income streams, pay our wages. They are at risk in these uncertain times so we need to do everything we can to develop our on-line teaching support and delivery mechanisms as well as work with sector groups to ensure Government understand the impact on universities. Budget managers should only plan to spend money if there is a clear business need to support income streams or for urgent business continuity reasons, not just because there’s an historic budget or a likely underspend this financial year. The CFO will be developing further guidance on budget management for next year in the coming weeks.

The more we press down on unnecessary expenditure, the longer our position of financial strength will be maintained, the longer we can protect job security and the longer we can support the delivery of education and research.

Andrew Connolly, Chief Financial Officer

April 2020

Our biggest financial challenge won’t be in the four remaining months of this financial year, it will be next year when we better understand the impact COVID-19 has on student recruitment.  Therefore, there will be no automatic carry-forward of unspent budgets into next year.

We do recognise the need, however, to protect our student and learning experience and that in order to do so there may be exceptional instances where we will need to find additional funds next year to support essential core activity that has been deferred this year.

This will be considered on a case by case basis by your Head of Finance. Where this is relevant, and the additional funds exceed £5,000, please email your Head of Finance with the details.

If we are fortunate enough that the trip/event was covered by insurance, it is unlikely that we will see a refund of these costs for some time and we may not be compensated for all costs incurred.

To enable us to try and reclaim as much of the cost as possible we are asking for your help:

i)     If the trip/event was booked using Click Travel or Key Travel

If you have a booking with Key Travel, please remember to cancel the purchase order as soon as you know the trip isn’t required. You do not need to take any action to recover Click Travel or Key Travel cancelled costs as the University is working directly with these providers to recover these costs as and when airlines/travel providers cancel.

ii)    If the trip/event was paid for using your own personal payment method (but not booked with Click Travel or Key Travel)

The University recognises that staff should be reimbursed for all costs incurred in undertaking University business, even if the trip/event has since been cancelled.

Where the trip/event has already been cancelled, we are asking for your help to firstly attempt to reclaim the costs via your travel/event provider. Details of how to reclaim these costs should be made available by your provider on their website.

If this is not possible and payment was made using your own personal credit or debit card, please attempt to reclaim the costs from your card provider. Details of how to reclaim costs should be made available on your card provider's website.

If you have already been personally reimbursed for the trip/event costs using the expenses system and you subsequently receive a refund from the travel/event provider or from your card provider, then you must reimburse the University:

      • Email Accounts Payable with the details of the refund, quoting the expenses claim number that the refund relates to.
      • You will be provided with the University bank details and asked to quote a reference number when making the payment.

 If your travel/event provider or card provider are unwilling to help, please contact Procurement-Operations

iii)   If trip/event was paid for using a University credit card (but not with Click Travel or Key Travel)

Where the trip/event has been cancelled, we are asking for your help to attempt to reclaim the costs via your travel/event provider. Details of how to reclaim these costs should be made available by your provider.

If this is not possible, then we may be able to recover costs from the University's credit card provider NatWest. As the card is in your name, we need your help to do this - please contact NatWest on the number provided on the back of your card to make a claim or use their online form.

Complete the form, including all mandatory fields & click submit.  Please answer ‘no’ to the question "Is it a ‘package holiday" if your booking was for travel [flight/rail] only. After submitting this form you may be required to provide further information, so please respond to any further requests from NatWest.

NatWest haven’t yet provided any information about how long they will take to process your application.  Please keep a copy of your application & date submitted so that you can chase it if you do not receive a payment or information about how your application is being progressed.

Once a refund is credited back to your university credit card, you will need to ensure that this is properly reconciled to your card statement in T1. Guidance on how to complete this will be made available here shortly.

iv)   If trip/event was paid for using a purchase order (but the supplier is not Click Travel or Key Travel)

The first step is to check your purchase order and find out how much may have already been paid to this supplier – view your PO in the ‘My Purchase Orders’ function.  Any amount already paid to the supplier will be shown in the ‘Invoiced’ column.

If the PO has already been fully or partially invoiced, then contact the supplier to cancel the order and request a refund or credit note for this amount.

If the supplier is sending a refund or a credit note, you should inform Accounts Payable to expect these funds and get them applied to the correct supplier account. Include your PO number, supplier number/name and full details of how and when the funds will be returned in your email.

If the supplier is unwilling to send a refund, please contact Procurement Operations for advice.

Financial rules are quite clear that we need to account for the goods and services in the year in which they are received/delivered.

Therefore, if the supplier cannot provide their service until next year this would have to come out of next year’s budget.

In this uncertain financial environment we should avoid paying for goods and services in advance.

Whilst consideration to plans and certain aspects of expenditure may need review, we do need to continue to protect our research income streams and so expenditure on research grants and contracts should continue where possible.

Where planned research activity can no longer continue as a result of Covid-19 restrictions such as laboratory access and procurement restrictions Academics are asked to consider alternative ways of delivery.

We strongly encourage mitigations that can be made for continued research in the home environment such as desk- based research, on- line field work, data analysis, report writing and preparation of publications.

Where this may not be possible (e.g Strategic equipment projects) please contact your relevant Research Services Cluster to discuss any potential no-cost extensions and other alternatives as well as referring to the relevant funder guidance.

This may affect associated recruitment funded through your research grant, along with any linked matched funding, which your Research Services Cluster can also support with.

Research colleagues are encouraged to visit the Research Toolkit, which covers Covid-19 research and funding information, and includes some useful FAQs - http://www.exeter.ac.uk/researchtoolkit/fundinginformation/covid-19/

Where this is not essential, it should be avoided.

If the spend is supporting our core teaching, research or future income generation activity then this will continue to be supported and normal rules on eligible spend will continue to apply. Research policies detailing eligible spend are available on your College web pages.

If you require additional IT equipment/printers, this should not be paid for using your research allowance. Please contact www.exeter.ac.uk/ithelpdesk and requests will be directed to your local IT Business Partner for consideration.

Where books are essential to your research, this spend is now permitted and you can reclaim the cost of this with a T1 expense claim against your research allowance. 

Please note that all purchases of books paid for from your research allowance are University property and must be forwarded to the Library once use of the book is finished and the campus is re-opened. To complete an expense claim for books:

  • Select 'Books' as the type of expenditure from the drop-down list.
  • Note the title of the book in the description to allow Library Services to track which books should be returned.

If your budget was subject to restrictions, you should assume that these restrictions will continue unless you are notified otherwise.

If the current restrictions on your budget result in your being unable to deliver essential core activity, please contact your Head of Finance who will consider your case. We are continually re-evaluating and reacting to the environment we find ourselves in and have already put in place some temporary measures below:

Staff are reminded that the measures below only apply to essential spend that supports the University’s core teaching and research activities. If the purchase is discretionary, this should be avoided.

Library spend: As the Campus and Library are closed, where reading material is essential, and where you have permission from the Library and the budget holder to do so, you can purchase reading material yourself and reclaim this using expenses. Please note that all purchase of books paid for by the University are University property and must be returned to the Library once work is completed and the campus is re-opened. Please ensure when completing your expenses claim that you:

  • Select 'Books' as the type of expenditure.
  • Attach email confirmation from the Library and Budget Holder that this purchase has been authorised.
  • Note the title of the book in the description field to allow the Library Services team to track which books should be returned.

IT equipment spend: Due to the sudden onset of the current situation, staff were temporarily allowed to purchase IT peripherals for home working (i.e. headsets, camera, microphones etc) themselves and reclaim the expenses. We have now settled into home working for some weeks now and normal practice for the purchase of IT equipment should resume. Personal printers should not be purchased using University funds as the University continues to be committed to its sustainability and environmental agendas. Should you wish to purchase a new laptop or peripherals please contact www.exeter.ac.uk/ithelpdesk.

If the spend is considered essential to delivering our core activity, you can continue to raise purchase orders/incur expenses as normal using T1. 

Staff should not under any circumstances go onto campus to pick up deliveries. 

Where goods are needed to be redirected to your home address, please contact procurement-operations@exeter.ac.uk who will discuss alternative arrangements.

To request your home address is added to T1, see Request a New T1 Delivery Address

Contact your supplier to confirm they have delivered your order and to which building.

Then send an email to Procurement Operations who will co-ordinate collection and arrange for you to collect when allowed to return to campus.

Before submitting an expense claim we should encourage them to follow the same process as our own staff and try to reclaim the cost.  Firstly from the travel provider or secondly through their card provider if this payment method was used.

Only if none of the above is possible will we consider reimbursement via expense.

We should also ask them to cancel all activity, accommodation, travel etc that has not yet been incurred to avoid further costs.

If you have already been personally reimbursed for trip/event costs that were claimed via the expenses system and you subsequently receive a refund from the travel/event provider or from your card provider, then you must reimburse the University.

For staff or students who completed a personal expense claim using T1:

  • Email Accounts Payable with details of your staff/student ID, the T1 expense claim and the refund value.
  • The Accounts Payable team will then contact you to advise how to transfer the funds back to the University.

For staff who completed an Internal or External Payment Request Form:

In general, if you have ordered an item and you are able to confirm it's been received by the University (even if you cannot access it and it is being stored for you until you are allowed to return to campus), then the purchase order must be receipted as failure to receipt on time can cause delays in paying suppliers.

If you know the goods have a shelf-life and may expire before you return to campus, please contact the supplier for advice. 

If the Stores team confirms they have received your order and are storing it for you, then please receipt your purchase order - see Receipt a University Stores Order

For help with receipting, see Receipting a T1 Purchase Order.  Any other queries about receipting should be directed to the Finance Helpdesk.

No, if you have received any funds from expense claims for events/trips that are no longer going ahead then these sums must be repaid to the University as soon as possible. 

These funds must not be retained, even if the trip is likely to be rescheduled sometime in the future.

To reimburse the University:

  • Email Accounts Payable with the details of the refund, quoting the expenses claim number that the refund relates to.
  • You will be provided with the University bank details and asked to quote a reference number when making the payment.

We advise all colleagues who are receiving goods into their homes to be mindful of their packaging and the journey involved in getting them to you. 

If in doubt refer to the Royal Mail website which has some good advice.

We are only expecting orders for the remaining lab which is open and for any other sanctioned work. 

Under absolutely no circumstances should chemicals, compounds or any other substances requiring special care or of a hazardous nature be ordered to your home address, either in readiness for your return to work or for use while working from home.

We appreciate how quickly everyone had to mobilise and we want to make sure we support colleagues with their home set up in the same way we would at work.

Normal buying rules still apply but to aid people getting essential goods to them at home, periphery items can be purchased and claimed back via expenses.

So if you need a low-value IT piece of equipment such as a headset, mouse or keyboard you can buy this online, have it delivered to you at home and reclaim the cost via expenses – keep the receipt and attach an image of it to your expense claim.

See Expenses Crib Sheet for help with making an expense claim.

For other types of IT purchases (such as computers, tablets and phones) see the guidance from Exeter IT here.

No - purchase orders for Office Depot should not be created at present in case they try to deliver to campus.  This is because any additional information added to a requisition (such as a home address) will not be replicated on the PO sent through to the supplier. 

If there are essential stationery items you need to work from home, then please order these from any online supplier able to deliver to your home address. Then create an expense claim to get reimbursed for the cost.

Help with creating an expense claim - Expenses Crib Sheet

We are only too aware that cash flow has never been so important in light of the current COVID-19 pandemic and we will be doing all we can to support our suppliers and SMEs.

We have updated our webpages to provide some helpful guidance to suppliers during this period, in addition to our standard FAQs - see Information for Suppliers.

Firstly, if a supplier wants to discuss anything urgent or specific that relates to their contractual relationship (including payment terms) with the University, please ask them to email procurement-operations@exeter.ac.uk and mark for the attention of Category Manager with the email header reference: Supplier Relief.

Further to this, here are some practical tips to ensure we can make prompt payments:

Staff should refer to HM Revenue and Customs to clarify any entitlement (up to the value of £6 per week) for out of pocket costs whilst working from home.

Any claims should be made through the HMRC portal using your own digital Government Gateway account at https://www.gov.uk/tax-relief-for-employees/working-at-home.

This claim should not be made via the University's expenses system (T1 or paper claims) but as advised above through the HMRC portal.

The University's commitment to its environmental and sustainability policies and practices remains in place so printing while working from home should be avoided unless you have an Occupational Health Assessment (OHA) that recommends you have access to a printer, ink and paper while working from home to support a disability. 

If you have an OHA, please contact your line manager so they can arrange for these items to be sent to your home address. 

Staff without an OHA cannot claim for printers or printing consumables such as ink or paper while working from home.

Guidance from the Occupational Health team for during the Covid-19 lockdown is available here.

The University's HR department may approve a time extension (with the agreement of yourself and your College) but only if your claim is delayed as a direct result of Covid-19.  If approved, your expenses can be claimed but will be taxable.  Please liaise with your College finance team for more details if you find yourself in this situation.

Details of the University's relocation allowance guidance are available here.

Alternatively, you the employee can apply directly to HMRC to request a formal extension to your tax free period. Our HR department can provide you with a template letter to help you apply to HMRC.

Information about the HMRC time limit is available here.

At this time, everyone is being asked to to protect the University's cash balances by minimising discretionary expenditure.  So where spending is not essential, it should be avoided.  This includes spending funds held in personal development accounts (PDAs) and start-ups.

If the spend is supporting our core teaching, research or future income generation activity then this will continue to be supported and normal rules on eligible PDA/start-up spend will continue to apply. Policies detailing eligible spend are available on your College web pages.

If you have a particular query about whether or not something should be classed as essential expenditure, please contact your Head of Department/PVC for advice.

It is not possible to make cash payments in the current circumstances so participant payments (for out of pocket expenses and compensation for time spent) need to be paid electronically. 

For research with <10 participants:

  • The member of staff or student conducting the research should complete one v1 Participant Payment Request Form for each participant, found here.
  • Electronic completion of the form is acceptable.  There is no need to print off, sign or scan in paper versions of the form at the moment.
  • Include the budget/project code in the Account Code field on the form that this payment will be costed to.
  • Send the completed form to the budget holder first and ask them to forward it on to accountspayableenquiries@exeter.ac.uk.  This provides budget holder authorisation for the payment. 

For research with 10 or more participants up to a maximum of 70:

  • Complete the Bulk Upload Spreadsheet with the banking and personal details of all the participants. 
  • Include the budget/project code on the spreadsheet that these payments will be costed to.
  • Send the completed spreadsheet to the budget holder first and ask them to forward it on to accountspayableenquiries@exeter.ac.uk.  This provides budget holder authorisation for the payments. 

If participants are allowed to claim for their actual expenses instead, use the External Payment Request form here instead and supply receipts as usual.

For help with completing the forms, contact Finance Helpdesk or call on 01392 726981.

For queries once the completed forms have been sent on to Accounts Payable, contact accountspayableenquiries@exeter.ac.uk or call on 01392 722777.

Please use Repaying an Advance for details of how to use the T1 finance system to account for what the advance was spent on.

The crib sheet includes how to return any underspent amount and how to get reimbursed if there was an overspend.

Funds within PDAs are College funds where the budget holder has discretion over the use of the funds providing the funds are expended in accordance with the University’s regulations. 

Funds transferred to PDA accounts become University funds and cannot be paid to an individual at a later date.

If additional costs are incurred as a result of undertaking University business then this can be claimed back via expenses.

As is normal practice and in accordance with HMRC rules, claims must be accompanied by evidence of the additional expense.  This can be in the form of a phone bill with the business-related phone calls highlighted on the attachment.

Staff can only be recompensed for the additional costs incurred.  Where business-related calls are within the limits of your standard phone contract and no additional costs have been incurred, you cannot claim for this.

For help with using T1 to claim expenses, see Expenses Crib Sheet.

The University position remains that international travel for work, study, research, or any other University business must not be booked no matter how far in the future the planned trip is.

While we understand that staff and students are looking to the new academic year, and thinking about research, conferences and study overseas, we are not currently able to arrange travel insurance. This is due to the fact that it is foreseeable that the trip may be cancelled due to Covid-19.

If there are exceptional circumstances meaning that travel is essential and unavoidable, please see the information on the travel page for details of the process to follow to obtain authorisation for your proposed travel plans. This process applies to international as well as UK travel as areas within the UK may be subject to local lockdowns and appropriate consideration of the risk and arranging insurance is still required.

If authorised, your travel booking will be made on your behalf by the Procurement-Operations team.

Currently, all staff (except the Procurement Operations team) are blocked from making travel bookings direct with Click Travel and Key Travel or paying for travel with a University purchase card.

 

UoE Policy and Information

Information on Travel, Insurance and Duty of Care

Information on International Travel

Expenses Policy

Procurement Policy and Information

Sustainability Policy and Information

Travel Policy 

 

Help and Support with Travel Bookings

Contact procurement-operations@exeter.ac.uk

If this is a DSE driven request, we have two suppliers who can provide approporiate desks and the DSE assessment will support the ordering of your required items, including the delivery to your home address. 

If this is not DSE driven and your current home working arrangements mean you are looking to source alternative equipment, please speak to your line manager in the first instance.  They may check if the University is able to supply and deliver a desk to you at home (via Campus Services) or will be able to authorise the purchase of a desk through another route.