Independent Auditor's Report to the Members of the Court of Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh
We have audited the financial statements of the Queen Margaret University (‘the institution’) and its subsidiary (the ‘group’) for the year ended 31 July 2023 which comprise the Consolidated and University Balance Sheet, Consolidated Statement of Cashflows, the Consolidated and University Statement of comprehensive income, the statement of changes in reserves and the related notes 1 to 25, including a summary of significant accounting policies. The financial reporting framework that has been applied in their preparation is applicable law and United Kingdom Accounting Standards (United Kingdom Generally Accepted Accounting Practice), including FRS 102 “The Financial Reporting Standard applicable in the UK and Republic of Ireland”.
In our opinion, the financial statements:
- give a true and fair view of the state of the group and institution’s affairs as at 31 July 2023 and of the group and institution’s incoming resources and application of resources, including its income and expenditure, for the year then ended;
- have been properly prepared in accordance with United Kingdom Generally Accepted Accounting Practice, including FRS 102 “The Financial Reporting Standard applicable in the UK and Republic of Ireland” and applicable law;
- have been prepared in accordance with the requirements of the Companies Act 2006, the Charities and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act 2005 and regulation 14 of the Charities Accounts (Scotland) Regulations 2006; and
- have been properly prepared in accordance with the Statement of Recommended Practice: Accounting for Further and Higher Education.
Basis for opinion
We conducted our audit in accordance with International Standards on Auditing (UK) (ISAs (UK)) and applicable law.
Our responsibilities under those standards are further described in the Auditor’s responsibilities for the audit of the financial statements section of our report below.
We are independent of the Group in accordance with the ethical requirements that are relevant to our audit of the financial statements in the UK, including the FRC’s Ethical Standard, and we have fulfilled our other ethical responsibilities in accordance with these requirements.
We believe that the audit evidence we have obtained is sufficient and appropriate to provide a basis for our opinion.
Material uncertainty in relation to going concern
We draw attention to Note 1 in the financial statements which describes the current status of the University’s loan scheduled to expire on 17 December 2024 and the ability to secure financing. As stated in Note 1, these events and conditions, along with other matters set forth in Note 1, indicate that a material uncertainty exists that may cast significant doubt on the Group and University’s ability to continue as a going concern. In auditing the financial statements, we have concluded that the directors’ use of the going concern basis of accounting in the preparation of the financial statements is appropriate. Our opinion is not modified in this respect.
Our responsibilities and the responsibilities of the directors with respect of going concern are described in the relevant sections of this report. However, because not all future events or conditions can be predicted, this statement is not a guarantee as to the company’s ability to continue as a going concern.
The other information comprises the information included in the annual report other than the financial statements and our auditor’s report thereon. The University Court is responsible for the other information contained in the annual report.
Our opinion on the financial statements does not cover the other information and we do not express any form of assurance conclusion thereon.
Our responsibility is to read the other information and, in doing so, consider whether the other information is materially inconsistent with the financial statements or our knowledge obtained in the audit or otherwise appears to be materially misstated.
If we identify such material inconsistencies or apparent material misstatements, we are required to determine whether this gives rise to a material misstatement in the financial statements themselves. If, based on the work we have performed, we conclude that there is a material misstatement of the other information, we are required to report that fact.
We have nothing to report in this regard.
Opinion on other matters prescribed by the Companies Act 2006
In our opinion, based on the work undertaken in the course of the audit:
- the information given in the annual report, which includes the directors’ report and the strategic report prepared for the purpose of company law, for the financial year for which the financial statements are prepared, is consistent with the financial statements; and
- the strategic report and the directors’ report included within the annual report, have been prepared in accordance with applicable legal requirements.
Opinion on other matters prescribed by the Scottish Funding Council's Financial (SFC) Memorandum
In accordance with the SFC’s Financial Memorandum (effective 1 December 2014), we will also report to the University Court whether, in all material respects:
- the requirements of the SFC’s accounts direction have been met;
- funds from whatever source administered by the institution for specific purposes have been applied properly to those purposes and, if relevant, managed in accordance with relevant legislation, and any other terms and conditions attached to them; and
- funds provided by SFC have been applied in accordance with the requirements of the SFC Financial Memorandum with Higher Education Institutions.
Matters on which we are required to report by exception
We have nothing to report in respect of the following matters in relation to which the Companies Act 2006 and the Charity Accounts (Scotland) Regulations 2006 requires us to report to you if, in our opinion:
- the information given in the Strategic Report is inconsistent in any material respect with the financial statements; or
- proper accounting records have not been kept; or
- the financial statements are not in agreement with the accounting records and returns; or
- we have not received all the information and explanations we require for our audit.
Responsibilities of the University Court
As explained more fully in the Statement of the University Court’s Responsibilities set out on page 21, the University Court is responsible for the preparation of the financial statements and for being satisfied that they give a true and fair view, and for such internal control as the University Court determine is necessary to enable the preparation of financial statements that are free from material misstatement, whether due to fraud or error.
In preparing the financial statements, the University Court is responsible for assessing the Group and University’s ability to continue as a going concern, disclosing, as applicable, matters related to going concern and using the going concern basis of accounting unless management either intend to liquidate the institution or to cease operations, or have no realistic alternative but to do so.
Auditor’s responsibilities for the audit of the financial statements
We have been appointed as auditor under section 44(1)(c) of the Charities and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act 2005 and report in accordance with the Act and relevant regulations made or having effect thereunder.
Our objectives are to obtain reasonable assurance about whether the financial statements as a whole are free from material misstatement, whether due to fraud or error, and to issue an auditor’s report that includes our opinion. Reasonable assurance is a high level of assurance, but is not a guarantee that an audit conducted in accordance with ISAs (UK) will always detect a material misstatement when it exists. Misstatements can arise from fraud or error and are considered material if, individually or in the aggregate, they could reasonably be expected to influence the economic decisions of users taken on the basis of these financial statements.
Explanation as to what extent the audit was considered capable of detecting irregularities, including fraud
Irregularities, including fraud, are instances of non-compliance with laws and regulations. We design procedures in line with our responsibilities, outlined above, to detect irregularities, including fraud. The risk of not detecting a material misstatement due to fraud is higher than the risk of not detecting one resulting from error, as fraud may involve deliberate concealment by, for example, forgery or intentional misrepresentations, or through collusion. The extent to which our procedures are capable of detecting irregularities, including fraud is detailed below. However, the primary responsibility for the prevention and detection of fraud rests with both those charged with governance of the University and management.
- We obtained an understanding of the legal and regulatory frameworks that are applicable to the University and determined that the most significant are FRS 102, Statement of Recommended Practice for Further and Higher Education and the Companies Act 2006.
- We understood how the Group and University is complying with those frameworks by making enquiries of management and those responsible for legal and compliance procedures. We corroborated our enquires through our review of the Court minutes and papers provided to the Audit and Risk Committee, as well as consideration of the results of our audit procedures to either corroborate or provide contrary evidence which was then followed up.
- We have considered the culture of honesty and ethical behavior of management and whether a strong emphasis is placed on fraud prevention, which may reduce opportunities for fraud to take place, and fraud deterrence, which could persuade individuals not to commit fraud because of the likelihood of detection and punishment.
- We assessed the susceptibility of the Consolidated and University’s financial statements to material misstatement, including how fraud might occur by meeting with management to understand where they considered there was susceptibility to fraud. We also considered performance targets and their influence on efforts made by management to manage financial performance. Where this risk was considered higher, we performed audit procedures to address the risk of fraud and management override. These procedures included testing manual journals and were designed to provide reasonable assurance that the financial statements were free from fraud or error.
- Based on this understanding we designed our audit procedures to identify non-compliance with such laws and regulations. Our procedures involved enquiries of management, those charged with governance and those responsible for legal and compliance procedures; journal entry testing with a focus on journals indicating large or unusual transactions based on our understanding of the business; review of Court minutes to identify any non-compliance with laws and regulations, and inspection of any correspondence between the University and Scottish Funding Council.
A further description of our responsibilities for the audit of the financial statements is located on the Financial Reporting Council’s website at https://www.frc.org.uk/auditorsresponsibilities. This description forms part of our auditor’s report.
Use of our report
This report is made solely to the University Court of the Queen Margaret University, as a body, in accordance with Chapter 3 of Part 16 of the Companies Act 2006 and to the University Court, as a body, in accordance with regulation 10 of the Charities Accounts (Scotland) Regulations 2006. Our audit work has been undertaken so that we might state to the University Court those matters we are required to state to them in an auditor’s report and for no other purpose. To the fullest extent permitted by law, we do not accept or assume responsibility to anyone other than the Queen Margaret University and the University Court as a body, for our audit work, for this report, or for the opinions we have formed.
Rob Jones (Senior Statutory Auditor)
For and on behalf of Ernst & Young LLP, Statutory Auditor
19 December 2023