April 1, 2005

On March 18, an 800-page edition of the Cambridge University Reporter thudded onto desks.It was racily titled "Accounts of the Colleges and Approved Foundations in the University of Cambridge", and a similar document has appeared for many years.

What's new is that the majority of the 31 colleges have, for the first time, published accounts that comply with new regulations for the Recommended Cambridge College Accounts (RCCA).The old form of Cambridge College Accounts (dating from 1926) were notorious for including (in the words of one bursar) "no income and expenditure account in the modern sense, and no balance sheet in any sense".

The new RCCA was devised by a group of college bursars aiming to achieve the degree of financial transparency called for by modern accounting standards. Many of the principles were derived from those established in various Statements of Recommended Practice such as that of the Charity Commission. Five colleges (Christ's, Emmanuel, Queens', St John's and Trinity) failed to adopt the new format. All these colleges are charities.

The university recently changed its statutes, abandoning the power that it used to exercise to direct the colleges to produce their accounts in a particular format. Who is now responsible for ensuring that all colleges publish accounts that provide a true and fair view?

Alan Findlay
Senior tutor,
Churchill College Cambridge University

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