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Audit Committee

The financial memorandum between the funding body and the institution requires the governing body to establish an audit committee. The work of audit committees is to ensure the governing body can be confident about the effective operation of the organisation's processes and systems, the management of risk, and the correctness and integrity of the information provided to governors and external bodies.


The CUC's 'Handbook for Members of Audit Committees in Higher Education Institutions' (2008:6) indicates the audit committee should concern itself with:

  1. The effectiveness of the institution's risk management, control and governance arrangements, and the arrangements to promote economy, efficiency and effectiveness
  2. Internal audit arrangements, including advising the governing body on the appointment of the internal audit provider, and oversight of the nature and scope of internal audit and its effectiveness
  3. External audit arrangements, including advising the governing body on the appointment of the external auditor, and oversight of the nature and scope of external audit and its effectiveness
  4. Audit aspects of the institution's financial statements, including external audit opinion, the statement of members' responsibilities, the statement of internal control and any relevant issue raised in the external auditors' management letter

While the focus of audit committees has traditionally been on financial records and systems, and this continues to be an important area of work, committees are increasingly concerned with, for example, data quality and returns generally to the institution's funding bodies and the Higher Education Statistical Agency (HESA). Audit Committees will also be mindful of the demands of organisations such as, for example, UK Visa and Immigration, whose actions have the potential to adversely affect an institution's ability to recruit international students.

Additional resources

Briefing note 14: Audit committee

The audit committee plays a key role in offering assurance to the governing body with regard to internal controls, risk management and governance. Over time the remit of the audit committees has tended to become broader. As a result, there is a need for the committee to have members with a range of expertise and skills, rather than only a background in finance. To discharge its responsibilities, the committee relies upon the work of internal and external auditors.
Download the briefing note

Getting to Grips Guide

The Getting to Grips guides provide a comprehensive introduction and overview of key areas of higher education and the responsibilities of governors. Getting to Grips guides are available to Advance HE Members only.

Getting to Grips with Audit covers a large number of issues identified in the area of audit for you to consider in your role as a governor or governance professional.
Download the guide

Small Development Project – The Role and Effectiveness of Audit Committees in UK Higher Education Institutions

The aim of the project was to investigate corporate governance practices in UK higher education institutions (HEIs).

Specifically, the project sought to examine the role and effectiveness of the audit committee in supporting what was initially conceptualised as ‘financial leadership’ in HEIs. What makes a board, and its various committees, an effective mechanism is a key and recurring question, which has been raised in academic, practitioner and policymaking circles and is relevant to companies, public bodies, charities and universities alike. the case of the audit committee is often highlighted in practice and in the literature, since it is a central plank of any corporate governance structure, normally tasked with overseeing the financial, control, auditing and risk management aspects of the organisation.
Read the project outcomes

Find out more about governing bodies and their committees

Governing bodies