What is it about?

This paper aims to examine trends in the content of reporting within 135 UK higher education institutions (HEIs). It explores the extent to which integrated reporting (IR) content elements, reflecting integrated thinking, are disclosed voluntarily and whether HEI-specific features influence the resulting disclosures.

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Why is it important?

The findings will allow policymakers to evaluate the extent to which integrated thinking is taking place and influencing the UK HEI sector in the selection and presentation of information. A further implication of the findings is that an appropriate a sector-wide enforcement and compliance body, for instance, the British Universities Finance Directors Group (BUFDG), may consider developing voluntary IR guidance in a clear, consistent, concise and comparable format. Also, it may pursue regulatory support for this guidance. In doing so, it may monitor the compliance and disclosure levels of appropriate IR requirements. Within such a framework, IR could be used to assist HEIs to make more sustainable choices and allow stakeholders to better understand aspects of HEI performance.

Perspectives

The research has implications for society within and beyond the unique UK HEI sector. Universities are places of advanced thinking and can lead the way for other sectors by demonstrating the potential of integrated thinking to create a cohesive wide-ranging discourse and create engagement among stakeholder groups. Specifically, IR builds on the strong points of accounting, for instance, robust quantitative evidence collecting, relevance, reliability, materiality, comparability and assurability, to explain the sustainability discourse into a “language” logical to HEIs organisational decision makers. Consequently, IR may generate better visibility and knowledge of the financial values of exploiting capitals (financial, intellectual, human, manufactured, social and natural) and offer a multifaceted approach to reassess HEIs organizational performance in various sectors that support the growth of integrated thinking.

Dr Ahmed A. Elamer
Brunel University

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This page is a summary of: Integrated reporting in UK higher education institutions, Sustainability Accounting Management and Policy Journal, September 2019, Emerald, DOI: 10.1108/sampj-03-2018-0093.
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