Rising costs and managing spend: how universities can build best practice

Higher education institutions must promote effective financial decision-making among teachers, researchers and administrators as costs rise

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24 Oct 2022
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Find out how Soldo can help you manage and track spending across departments

Universities face a range of challenges – from coping with the aftermath of the pandemic to the spectre of rising inflation. Students, governing bodies and regulators all want to know how university budgets are being invested, so every penny spent by departments and professional services teams is under scrutiny. Staff want to enhance the student experience and need spending power to do so, but untangling multiple smaller expenses across an entire institution is a major administrative burden. 

Embedding effective expense management across the university – especially with costs on the rise – is essential. About half of university income is spent on non-teaching expenses such as sports kit, cleaning supplies or registrations for academic conferences. Yet only about a third of students think university is good value for money, according to the Office for Students.

Misspending and overspending are often unintentional; multiple departments may subscribe to the same journal and miss out on a bulk deal, for example, or departments struggle to track multiple purchases so have to reallocate budgets at short notice. Hundreds of individuals could be ordering the same item across the institution and paying delivery costs for each one, when it would be far more cost effective to order them together. 

Soldo offers university staff a prepaid card that is attached to an app and expense management system. “It’s all about streamlining processes so departments are not bogged down with manual tasks, and it removes the potential for human error,” explains Fynn McCoy, sales account executive at Soldo. “Staff can see the spending policies in front of them, there are proactive controls and they can say yes or no to purchase requests through a review feature. It means they can be a lot more responsible about spending because there is more oversight.” The system enables finance teams to define spending rules up front and manage them centrally, providing a helicopter view of every purchase.

With greater visibility, staff can make better financial decisions and identify duplicate or unnecessary purchases. That could mean consolidating subscriptions across the campus so they are still accessible but purchased for a team rather individual users, or seeing where certain departments have secured better deals for course essentials such as software licences. These savings may seem insignificant on an individual basis, but add up to huge cost efficiencies when taken together. 

Automation further mitigates the risk of human error and removes friction from the expense management process, McCoy adds. “Users receive a notification to take a picture of their receipt as soon as they make a purchase and the system can send automated reminders, so they’re not given the chance to forget to log something,” he says. “Being able to keep track of spend in as close to real time as possible is helpful at a time when we’re seeing the cost of everything rise.”

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