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Gifts and hospitality

Personal business conduct including the receipt/offer of gifts, hospitality and other benefits 

1.1 Introduction

The Bribery Act 2010 (the Act) came into force on 1 July 2011.   

The Act, a copy of which can be found on the Ministy of Justice website, is the most substantial change to the UK’s corruption laws since 1916. Prior to the introduction of the Act, the UK had received criticism for a poor record for prosecuting corruption. This criticism peaked when direct intervention from the British prime minister in 2008 led to a decision by the serious fraud office not to proceed with prosecution of BAE Systems following allegations of corruption in the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is responsible for helping governments tackle the economic, social and governance challenges of a globalised economy. The UK is a member of OECD. The Act was introduced by the UK government partly in response to sustained pressure from OECD and other organisations attempting to develop common international standards for global anti-corruption.

The purpose of the Act is to meet these challenges by providing a new consolidated scheme of bribery offences to prosecute bribery both in the UK and abroad. While primarily aimed at commercial organisations the Act also covers all organisations incorporated under UK law including charities and, therefore, includes universities.

This policy considers the implications of the Bribery Act 2010, which came into force on 1 July 2011, for the University and what areas the University needs to consider in order to comply with the legislation.

1.2 What is bribery?

A bribe is defined in the BA 2010 as “a financial or other advantage” offered, promised or given to induce a person to perform a relevant function of activity improperly, or to reward them for doing so (section 1).

This broad-ranging description covers many types of possible advantage including gifts, hospitality and entertainment, political or charitable donations, sponsorship and publicity. The timing of the financial or other advantage does not matter: it is still a bribe even if it is given or paid after the event. Individuals can be liable even if they unwittingly give or receive a bribe. Liability attaches if a bribe is offered or promised (or agreed to); it does not have to be actually given or received. The employer does not need to actually receive any advantage from the offer or payment of the bribe.

1.3 Offences under the Bribery Act 2010

The BA 2010 introduced four new criminal offences, which can be summarised as follows:

  • Bribing another (section 1)
  • Being bribed (section 2)
  • Bribing a foreign public officer (section 6)
  • Failure of a commercial organisation to prevent bribery by an “associated person” for its benefit (section 7).

1.4 Who is an “associated person”?

The definition of “associated person” in section 8 of the BA 2010 is wide. It covers those who perform services for, or on behalf of, the organisation such as, for example, employees, agents and subsidiaries (section 8(3)). The capacity in which the person performs the services does not matter. There is a presumption that employees will be associated persons of the employer. However, others working for the University, such as consultants, agency workers and volunteers will also be associated persons for the purpose of the BA 2010. Associated persons are referred to as workers in this policy.

The University is therefore potentially responsible for the actions of a wide range of individuals, some of whom it may have minimal control over.

1.5 Penalties

The consequences of a breach of the BA 2010 are severe. Individuals face up to ten years imprisonment, and commercial organisations can be fined an unlimited amount and prevented from tendering for public contracts.

1.6 The “adequate procedures” defence

Under section 7(2) of the BA 2010, an organisation has a defence if it can show that it had in place “adequate procedures” designed to prevent bribery. There is, however, no definition or specific explanation as to what constitutes adequate procedures.

1.7 Governing body

The governing body, the University Court of St Andrews, is fully committed to compliance with the Bribery Act 2010. 

1.8 Scope and purpose

This policy applies to all University employees and associated persons and workers including Members of Court, contractor, temporary or agency staff or unpaid members of staff and voluntary workers. It also applies to staff in subsidiary companies. The policy applies to all activities of the University, whether related to its research, teaching, commercial or other activities, and exists for the protection of members of staff, workers and the University.

The University expects any person or organisation performing services for it or on its behalf, to adhere to this policy or otherwise have equivalent procedures in place to prevent corruption. These third parties include agents and others who represent the University suppliers, consultants and private sector partners as well as who perform services for the University or on its behalf, both domestically and internationally. As the University operates internationally, employees are reminded to be extra vigilant when conducting business overseas as there may be a greater risk of exposure to unethical activity.

The policy sets out the scope of the University’s approach to dealing with the relevant legislation, as follows:

Nature of offence



Paying bribes

Members of staff of the University and those representing the University, including workers

Receiving bribes

Members of staff of the University  and those representing the University, including workers

Bribery of a foreign public official

Members of staff of the University and those representing the University, including workers

Failure of a commercial organisation to prevent bribery

The University and its subsidiary companies

The policy also covers issues related to the following other policies and codes of the University, where guidance is given on each specific policy and can be found on the HR webpage under policies and procedures:

1.9 Breach of policy 

Where an allegation is made to the effect that a member of staff has breached this policy, the matter will be dealt with under the University’s disciplinary policy. Where, after an investigation and subsequent disciplinary hearing, allegations are upheld, the employee may be subject to formal disciplinary sanctions up to and including dismissal.

Where third parties performing services or supplying goods for, or on behalf of the University, are in breach of this policy, action may be taken by the University up to and including terminating the relevant contractual relationship.

2.1 Guiding principles

Organisations are required to set out adequate procedures designed to prevent bribery and the following six principles have been identified by the UK Government:

  • Top level commitment
  • Risk assessment
  • Proportionate procedures
  • Due diligence
  • Communication (including training)
  • Monitoring and review

2.2 Policy statement

In accordance with the highest standards of professional practice and good governance, the University will not tolerate bribery or corruption of any kind.

All members of staff, workers and agents of the University must adhere strictly to the UK legislation in relation to bribery and corruption and follow the procedures designed by the University to prevent bribery.

Staff must not offer, promise or pay bribes and they must not request or receive bribes. The University will also expect the highest standards of compliance in this area from other parties that provide services to the University or on its behalf.

2.3 The code of public interest disclosure (‘whistleblowing’)

The University Court of St Andrews is committed to ensuring that the University conducts its affairs in a reasonable, ethical and transparent way and conforms to those standards. This also includes detection, prevention and reporting instances of possible bribery or corruption.

Consequently, the Court will ensure that any former or current University employee or student who has information about possible malpractices within the University during her/his membership of the University is able to bring that concern immediately to its attention. The designated contact to receive such concerns is the Convener of the Audit and Risk Committee of the University Court. Letters may be sent to the Convener (marked ‘For Forwarding without Opening’ and ‘Strictly Private and Confidential’ to the Court Office, College Gate, North Street, St Andrews, Fife, KY16 9AJ or by email via a special account with the address

When a disclosure is made, the Convener of the Audit and Risk Committee, having obtained legal advice as necessary, shall normally consult with the Senior Governor. The latter will ensure that the matter is fully investigated and determined as (s)he thinks fit by either University procedure, if appropriate, or referred to the Police or other relevant Authority. The Senior Governor will report the outcome of the investigation (whether internally or external investigated) to both the original complainant and to the University Court.

A full copy of The Code of Public Interest Disclosure (‘whistleblowing’) can be found on HR's whistleblowing page

Alternatively, staff may seek further information from the finance director. It is the choice of the individual as to whom they wish to report instances of possible bribery or corruption.

2.4 Risk audit

An external risk audit was carried out by Ernst & Young in conjunction with the Quaestor and Finance Director of the University. The areas below were initially highlighted as potential concerns within the institution:

  • Overseas agents
  • Trading subsidiaries
  • Donations
  • Large scale procurement
  • Gifts and hospitality

Key staff who operate in these areas of the University received a briefing by the external auditors Ernst & Young on the fundamental details of the new legislation.

2.5 Responsibilities

Line managers from the Principal’s Office down, are responsible for ensuring that:

  • All employees with whom they work are aware of this Policy and attend training as necessary on how it affects their work;
  • They promote all other anti-corruption compliance measures within the parts of the University in which they work and that they lead by example.
  • They inform their Head of School / Director of Unit immediately when they are notified of any corruption concerns.

 All employees are expected to:

  • Adhere to the University’s anti-corruption procedures, and other similar policies, as far as they are applicable to their roles within the University;
  • Raise corruption concerns immediately with their line managers or their Head of School/Unit;
  • Follow University guidance and best practice when involved in activities relating to the procurement of goods, services or works, or using overseas or other agents and third parties

2.6 Due Diligence

The University will ensure that individuals, incorporated and/or unincorporated bodies who ‘perform services for or on behalf of the University’ ie members of staff, workers, agents and subsidiaries are fully aware of the implications of the Bribery Act 2010.

2.7 Communication and Training

Members of the Audit and Risk Committee received training from Ernst & Young on the implications of the Bribery Act 2010 in June 2011. Those members of staff to which the Bribery Act 2010 directly relates, will continue to receive specific guidance and training on an ongoing basis.

2.8 Monitoring and Review

Effective monitoring and review is critical to the long-term sustainability of an anti-bribery initiative and the University is committed to ensuring that the effectiveness of its procedures and processes are regularly updated in order to comply with updates/changes to the Act. One area in which continual assessment will take place is with regard to new markets in to which the University may develop/expand in the future.

2.9 Processes and Controls

Specific policies have been created covering the following areas:

  • Overseas Agents
  • Trading Subsidiaries
  • Donations
  • Large Scale Procurement
  • Gifts and Hospitality                 

These have been implemented in order to reduce the risk or opportunity for bribery covering these areas (as noted in 1.6) and can be found at:

Overseas agents - Admissions

Trading subsidiaries - Contact Keith Millican, group finance director, St Andrews Applied Research Ltd

Donations - Alumni make your gift

Large scale procurement - Procurement policies

Gifts and hospitality - Disciplinary procedures and receipt of gifts, hospitality and other benefits

The Policy Appendices have been collated to add further clarity to the type of examples where the Act could be relevant, for individuals within the University, or acting on its behalf

3. Receipt/offer of gifts, hospitality and other benefits


3.1 It is generally expected that employees of the University are likely to be offered gifts, hospitality and/or other benefits. However, it is the size and context of these which need to be considered with respect to the Bribery Act 2010.

It is wholly unacceptable for employees to solicit or offer for their personal benefit gifts, hospitality or other benefits from organisations or individuals outside the University in the course of performing their duties.

The University accepts that there are circumstances where the unsolicited receipt of small gifts or of hospitality will be appropriate, or indeed where the refusal of such gifts or hospitality could cause offence that is detrimental to the University.

3.2 As a general rule, gifts and hospitality should not be accepted where the University does not have an existing business relationship. However, where the value is minimal, this can be reconsidered, in conjunction with the employee’s line manager. Further guidance can be sought from the Vice-Principal Governance or the University Director of Finance.

3.3 Before accepting unsolicited gifts, hospitality or other benefits, employees should determine that acceptance:

  • does not place them in a position where their integrity or professionalism may be called into question
  • bears no direct or perceptible indirect link to any formal procurement process for goods or services
  • does not create a specific or general obligation which the employee or the University is required to fulfil
  • does not constitute an actual or perceived inducement in respect of a decision that the University must take.

3.4 In circumstances where it is deemed appropriate to accept a gift of greater than small or nominal value ie not more than £50.00, such as from a distinguished visitor, these gifts should normally be regarded as University property and used or retained accordingly.

3.5 In any case that gives rise to doubt, before accepting the gift or hospitality or other benefit, the employee should declare the matter to their Head of School or Unit and obtain their approval for acceptance. If the Head of School or Unit requires advice, the appropriate line manager in the Principal’s Office or the Convener of the University Ethics Assurance Group should be consulted.

3.6 If an employee subsequently finds that (s)he is in the position of taking a decision on a matter where earlier receipt of a gift or hospitality or other benefit (in either a personal or professional capacity) might be interpreted as having compromised his/her integrity, the conflict of interest should be declared to the relevant Head of School or Unit. 

3.7 Any act of corruption or breach of this policy is likely to constitute a contractual, criminal or disciplinary matter, notwithstanding serious damage to the reputation of the University. This includes the giving, requesting or accepting to bribes and will be subject to disciplinary action. This may include suspension of the employee or ‘associated person’ while the matter is being investigated.

3.8 Any proven allegation may result in dismissal and possible reporting of the matter to the relevant authorities.

4.         General Guidance

4.1 Gifts of a nominal or small value can normally be accepted without question in circumstances such as: 

  • Where they are offered by visitors from other universities or educational institutions where no formal procurement of goods or services is being undertaken or is anticipated
  • Where they are between a supervisor and a postgraduate student who has completed his/her studies and where the monetary value is not significant
  • Where they are promotional items such as calendars, memory sticks, etc.
  • Where they are books from publishers to academic staff and the books are relevant to the academic interests of the member of staff.

4.2 References to “other benefits” that fall within the terms of this policy include (but are not limited to) invitations to events, preferential rates for travel or events or goods for personal use, sponsorship, extension of hospitality or preferential terms to family members, free entertainment. Refusal of benefits would not normally be expected, however, where they are offered as a normal part of a professional activity, such as part of conference attendance, and where these are not construed to be attempts to gain influence with the University.

4.3 It is recognised that there are areas such as fundraising and the building of relationships with potential donors where the regular receipt of hospitality or exchange of gifts in the course of one’s work may be in the University’s interests. This will be of particular relevance to staff in the Development Office or for any other Units that may be regularly involved in such activities.

4.4 Similarly, appropriate monitoring and recording procedures should be put in place for other staff engaged in work-related activities that make them particularly vulnerable to actual or perceived inducements (such as Procurement).

4.5 As a general guideline, a gift with a value in excess of £75.00 would not normally be considered to be of small or nominal value.

4.6 As a general guideline, receipt of hospitality at a level above that which the University might offer in return should normally be discussed in advance with the Head of School or Unit.

4.7 As a general guideline, personal gifts of money (or monetary instruments) should never be accepted regardless of amount. Gifts of money (or monetary instruments) to the University should be received only if they are clearly charitable donations, co-ordinated through the Development Office or directly with the Principal.

4.8 Staff are wholly responsible for any tax implications that may be associated with the receipt of personal gifts or other benefits, including any responsibility for reporting them to HMRC. 

5.  Further Guidance on Gifts Entertainment and Hospitality

All members of staff should refer to the Code of Practice for Staff on the Receipt of Gifts, Hospitality and Other Benefits.

This Guidance Note is intended to supplement the provisions of the above Code of Practice. It applies to all gifts, hospitality and entertainment that members of staff give or receive in the context of their activities for the University. In cases where a member of staff pays for a gift, entertainment or hospitality, but it is not reimbursed by the University, this Guidance Note remains applicable in this context.

The following overarching principles in relation to Gifts Entertainment and Hospitality (whether given or received) are particularly important for staff to consider in the context of potential corruption risks:

  • Expenditure should always be reasonable and proportionate (having regard in particular to the recipient)
  • Expenditure should be in accordance with the policy on the Receipt of Gifts, Hospitality and Other Benefits; and any necessary approvals sought in accordance with that policy; and records kept in accordance with the policy.
  • The recipient must always be entitled to receive the gift, entertainment or hospitality under the law of the recipient’s country.