Serious Incident Reporting


A serious incident is one which has resulted in, or could result in, a significant loss of funds or a significant risk to a charity’s property, work, beneficiaries or reputation. This can include cases of fraud, theft, loss of charity assets or other impropriety or irregularity. At its most basic level, an incident is serious if the University considers it to be serious. Indicators of this could include the involvement of the police or a regulatory agency, the seniority (level of responsibility) of the person involved, disciplinary proceedings against staff, or reports to the senior management team, Audit Committee or Governors.

It is a requirement of the Memorandum of assurance and accountability that the accountable officer for the University (the Vice-Chancellor), in agreement with the governing body, or in urgent cases the chair, must report serious incidents to HEFCE at the time when they are identified. In view of the public interest, for incidents of suspected or actual fraud where the sums involved are greater than £25,000, the University will consider whether police involvement will be required.

What is a Serious Incident?

The Memorandum of assurance and accountability requires the University to report the following serious incidents:

  • loss of assets through fraud, theft or other cause where the value of the loss is in excess of £25,000
  • donations of more than £25,000 from unknown donors, or where the source cannot be verified
  • abuse or mistreatment of a charitable beneficiary involved in activities of the Univeristy
  • disqualification of a trustee
  • known or alleged links (other than for bona fide academic reason) with proscribed organisations or terrorism; this applies to trustees, staff, students, or anyone else associated with the University

Read more details about what HEFCE define as a serious incident.

What Happens after a Serious Incident is Reported?

On receipt of notification of a serious incident the Chief Financial Officer will review the submission and liaise with the Vice-Chancellor as 'accountable officer' to determine whether wider notification is required. The process will then be:

  1. Wider notification
    In the event of any material adverse change in The University’s circumstances – such as a significant and immediate threat to the HEI’s financial position, significant fraud or major accounting breakdown – the accountable officer must inform, without delay, all of the following:
    • the chair of the HEI’s audit committee
    • the chair of the HEI’s governing body
    • the HEI’s head of internal audit
    • the external auditor
    • the HEFCE chief executive *

      * On receiving any such notification, the chief executive will discuss what response to make with the HEI’s governing body or accountable officer, including any action to be taken.

    If a matter requiring report is discovered by external or internal auditors in the normal course of their work, and the accountable officer refuses to make a report, the auditors must report directly to all of the following:

    • the chair of the HEI’s audit committee
    • the chair of the HEI’s governing body
    • the HEFCE chief executive
  2. Investigate
    HEFCE will provide guidance to the University’s governing body and/or accountable officer, about undertaking an appropriate investigation of the serious incident, including liaising as necessary with the Police or other regulatory bodies.
  3. Provide report to HEFCE
    A report of a serious incident should be sent to HEFCE’s head of assurance. The primary concern is for HEFCE to satisfy themselves that the HEI has responded to the incident in an appropriate way, designed to protect the HEI as a charity. In order for us to do this, HEIs should provide as much information as possible to help HEFCE decide if their response has been appropriate and what, if any, further action is appropriate. HEFCE expect the report to indicate:
    • whether the incident has happened or is suspected
    • when it occurred and who was involved
    • the impact of the incident on the HEI, any beneficiary involved, or both
    • what inquiries have been made and/or actions taken, including any reports to other regulators or the police
    • what policies and procedures were in place that apply to the incident, whether they were followed and, if not, why
    • whether the trustees have determined that policies and procedures need to be introduced or revised – and if so, how and by when
    • In extreme cases, a serious incident report may lead to HEFCE inviting the Commission to consider opening a formal Inquiry under S8 of the Charities Act 1993

HEFCE statement on protection of data

"We appreciate that information provided may be of a sensitive nature, and we undertake to treat it with care. We ask for the information to fulfil our statutory obligations as principal regulator, and such obligations may require us to consult the Commission to ensure that we deal with an issue in a manner consistent with the regulation of charities generally. As public authorities, both HEFCE and the Commission are subject to the Freedom of Information Act. We will only disclose information to someone outside HEFCE or the Commission in circumstances where we are legally obliged to do so. Further guidance about the way HEFCE applies the Freedom of Information Act and the Data Protection Act 1998 is available on our web-site."

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Need Help or More Information?

Further information about serious incidents is available on the charity regulation section of the HEFCE web-site.

If you have any questions please contact Helen Dingle (Chief Financial Officer)