The acceptance of gifts by the University and individuals will be made in strict accordance with the principles of the Ethics Framework and with advice from the Chief Financial Officer where appropriate. All gifts should be compatible with the mission of the University and of its strategic priorities as well as in compliance with current UK treasury regulations and UK, European and international laws. The University’s Policy on the Prevention of Bribery, Gifts and Hospitality defines standards and guidelines in relation to adherence to University’s anti-bribery measures and standards that should apply in relation to the acceptance and provision of gifts and hospitality.
Staff may not, directly or through others, offer or give any, money, gift, hospitality or other thing of value to an official, employee or representative of any supplier, customer or any other organisation, if doing so could reasonably give the appearance of influencing the organisation’s relationship with the University.
In considering the acceptance of gifts the following guiding principles should be considered:
As a charitable body the University must observe the requirements of charity law and other relevant legislation in relation to the receipt and expenditure of funds. Ultimate responsibility regarding the acceptance and refusal of donations rests with the University Council.
All offers of substantial donations or endowments for the University must be approved at the appropriate level before they are accepted in accordance with the Donations and Endowments Policy. The implications of accepting such a donation or endowment must be considered in terms of: the ability of the University to comply with any conditions attached to the donation or endowment; any potential conflict of interest; and any other risk. Approval will normally be by the Executive Dean and Director of Alumni and Development, although larger donations may require consideration by the Vice-Chancellor, Finance and Major Projects Committee and Council depending upon the amounts involved. The approval levels for donations are set out in the Financial Authority Limits.
Officers should take all reasonable steps to ensure that they are aware of the source of funding for each gift and have processes in place to satisfy themselves that the funds do not derive from activity that was or is illegal, or runs counter to the core values of impartial, independent research scholarship and teaching.
Potential discussions relating to donations that are likely to give rise to significant public interest or which raise complex questions with regard to acceptability should be considered at the earliest stage possible by the appropriate decision makers who should be fully informed of the purpose and the background to the donation and the source of funds. The legal and reputational rights of potential donors should also be considered as part of any due diligence undertaken in assessing the acceptability of a proposed donation. In this regard a clear distinction should be drawn between rumour or speculation, and matters of confirmed fact or legal finding whilst also accepting that the University may wish to consider the reputational risks that could be incurred through public perception of any particular donor.
Donors must accept and, for significant gifts, sign appropriate gift agreements to confirm that the management and governance of programmes funded through benefaction rest solely with the University. The University will often choose, without undermining this core principle, to offer donors opportunities for continuing engagement with the activities that they have funded. Aston will, however, continue to operate its standard procedures relating to recruitment, admissions, hiring, promotion, procurement, management and governance for all research, teaching, outreach, capital development, or student scholarship programmes funded by gifts.
The University shall review and reconsider previous decisions taken in good faith relating to the acceptance of particular gifts if subsequent events or the subsequent availability of additional information require it. The response to such circumstances shall be proportionate to the issues concerned and shall be reported to the University Executive via the Chief Financial Officer and where appropriate to the University Audit Committee, Nominations Committee and/or the Council.
An employee or any member of their family should not, directly or through others, solicit or accept money, gifts, hospitality or anything else that could influence or reasonably give the appearance of influencing the relationship with that organisation or individual.
Gifts or hospitality may not be accepted, irrespective of value, which might influence or be seen to influence such situations as the outcome of an examination, the acceptance of a student into the University, the award of business (contract) or the use of the University’s Intellectual Property or other assets, or to benefit personally or for the benefit of any person connected to that person.