We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Durham University

University Committees

Audit and Risk Committee

Standing Orders

(Approved Council May 2021)
(Governance committee of Council)

These Standing Orders should be read in conjunction with the Joint Standing Orders of Senate and Council.

Membership (Composition)

Members 2021/22
Four lay members of Council (who shall not be members of the Finance Committee or the Chair of Council) appointed for a three year term by Council, one of whom shall be appointed Chair: Kay Boycott (2023) (18) (Chair from 2020)
Cheryl Millington (2022) (19)
Kate Pretty (2022) (20)
The Venerable Andrew Tremlett (2023) (20)
Up to two co-opted members, one of whom with recent, relevant experience in finance, accounting or auditing: Martin Cocker (2023) (17)

Additional lay member of Council

Leslie Ferrar (2024)(21)

In attendance: Normally the University Secretary, the Chief Financial Officer and the Head of University Assurance will attend all meetings. The external providers of Internal Audit reviews attending when presenting reports.
The Vice-Chancellor and a representative of the external Auditors will be invited to attend meetings and will be expected to attend at least two meetings each year, one of which will be to discuss and approve the University’s Annual Financial Atatements.
A full date after a member's name indicates that their term of office will expire on the 31 July in that year and a half date indicates the year of appointment of that member. e.g. (2019) (17) indicates that the member was appointed in 2017 and their term of office will expire on the 31 July 2019.

A member of the academic community (normally the Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost) is invited to attend meetings where academic quality assurance items are considered.


The Secretary of the Committee shall be the University Secretary (Alison Blackburn (Interim)).


The Committee shall normally meet four times in each financial year and will always meet once a term. The external auditors or the Head of University Assurance may request a meeting at any time if they consider it necessary.

The Committee shall meet privately, with the external auditors and/or the Head of University Assurance if the Committee wishes. The Committee shall meet privately with the University Secretary if the Committee wishes.


Two members shall constitute a quorum.

Terms of Reference


It is the role of the Committee to advise and assist the governing body in respect of the entire assurance and control environment of the institution.

Internal Audit

  • to review the University Assurance Service Risk Assessment Strategy and Audit programme (which shall be closely aligned to the University's identified risk management priorities)
  • to consider major findings of University Assurance investigations and management's response
  • to promote co-ordination between the University Assurance Service and External Auditors
  • to ensure that the resources made available for the University Assurance Service are sufficient to meet the institution's needs (and making recommendations to Council as appropriate)
  • to consider and advise Council on the appointment and terms of engagement of the University Assurance Service (and the Head of University Assurance, if applicable), the audit fee, the provision of any non-audit services by the University Assurance Service and any questions of resignation or dismissal of the University Assurance Service personnel

External Audit

  • to advise Council on the appointment of the External Auditors, the audit fee, the provision of any non-audit services by the External Auditors and any questions of resignation or dismissal of the External Auditors
  • to discuss with the External Auditors, before the audit begins, the nature and scope of the audit
  • to consider elements of the annual financial statements in the presence of the external auditor including the auditor's formal opinion, the statement of members' responsibilities and the statement of internal control in accordance with the Office for Students' account directions
  • to discuss with the External Auditors any problems and reservations arising from the interim and final audits, including a review of the management letter incorporating management responses, and any other matters the External Auditors may wish to discuss (in the absence of staff of the University where necessary)
  • in the event of the merger or dissolution of the institution, to ensure that the necessary actions are completed, including arranging for a final set of financial statements to be completed and signed

Internal and External Audit

  • to approve all audit planning documents on behalf of Council
  • to review the audit of the draft annual report and finance statements. These aspects will include the external audit opinion, the statement of members' responsibilities, the statement of internal control and any relevant issues raised in the external auditors' management letter. Where appropriate, confirm with the internal and external auditors that the effectiveness of the internal control system has been reviewed, and comment on this in the committee's annual report to the governing body
  • to monitor the implementation of agreed audit-based recommendations from whatever source
  • to monitor annually the performance and effectiveness of External Auditors and the University Assurance Service, including any matters affecting their objectivity and to make recommendations to Council concerning their reappointment, where appropriate
  • to monitor other relevant sources of assurance, for example other external reviews

Risk Management

  • to keep under review the effectiveness of the Risk Management culture, control and governance arrangements, and in particular to review the External Auditor's annual report, the internal auditors' annual report and management responses. The Committee shall be informed of all major changes to internal control systems
  • to ensure the keeping under review of the University's financial and procurement policies and regulations
  • to oversee the institution's policy on fraud and irregularity, including being notified of any action taken under that policy
  • to ensure that all losses have been properly investigated in accordance with the University's Anti-Bribery and Fraud Prevention Policy and that the University Assurance Service and External Auditors, and where appropriate the Office for Students' Accounting Officer, have been informed
  • to satisfy itself that the University has an effective framework to manage the quality of learning, teaching and research and to maintain academic standards
  • to satisfy itself that arrangements are in place for staff to raise concerns, in confidence, that are in the public interest (often referred to as 'whistleblowing') at a high level within the University, so that they may be investigated and, where appropriate, acted upon

Value For Money

  • to ensure that there are adequate and effective arrangements in place to ensure public funds are managed appropriately, in line with the conditions of grant and the principles of regularity, propriety and value for money, and to protect the interests of taxpayers and other stakeholders, including providing transparency about value for money for students and for taxpayers. It will be supported and advised in this through the Value for Money UEC sub-committee

Other Duties

  • to satisfy itself that suitable arrangements are in place to ensure the sustainability of the institution and to promote economy, efficiency and effectiveness. This may include consideration of arrangements that:

a) support the culture and behaviour that is prevalent within the institution;

b) ensure the effective management of conflicts of interests

  • to satisfy itself that effective arrangements are in place to ensure appropriate and accurate data returns are made to external stakeholders and regulatory bodies
  • to receive any relevant reports from the National Audit Office, the Office for Students and other organisations


The Committee shall:

  • report to Council after each of its meetings. The full minutes shall be available not later than at the next but one meeting of Council and any members of Council may request a copy
  • present an annual report to Council in the Michaelmas Term covering the University's Financial Year, noting any significant issues up to the date of preparing the report and the Committee's comment on all its responsibilities (as set out in the Terms of Reference above) and giving the Committee's opinion based on the information presented to it on the adequacy and effectiveness of the University's arrangements for the following:

a. Risk Management (including the accuracy of the statement of Internal Control), control and governance, following confirmation, where appropriate, with UAS and External Auditors
b. sustainability, economy efficiency and effectiveness (value for money)
c. management and quality assurance of data submitted to HESA and Office for Students and other funding bodies

  • normally submit the annual report to Council before the members' responsibility statement in the University annual report and financial statements is signed. The report will usually be published after consideration by the governing body
  • draw the attention of the Council to significant audit matters at any time
  • at a minimum of every four years undertake a review of its terms of reference and perform a self-review of its own effectiveness and recommend any necessary changes to Council


The Committee shall be empowered:

  • to co-opt members with particular expertise to attend individual meetings
  • to seek any information it requires from any employee, and all employees are directed to cooperate with requests made by the Committee
  • to obtain external legal or other independent professional advice including attendance at meetings, normally in consultation with the Vice-Chancellor and Chair of Council
  • to investigate any activity within its terms of reference

Further Information

Register of Interests

All members of the Committee, the Head of University Assurance and the Secretary of the Committee shall complete entries for the register of interests maintained by Council


Maria Towes

0191 334 6264

Deborah Evans

0191 334 6150