Universities in England accumulate record surpluses

Universities in England accumulated record operating surpluses worth nearly £1.8bn last year, as their balances were filled by the first full group of students paying the £9,000 tuition fee.

The figures published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) show that the income for English universities rose above their counterparts in Scotland and Wales, where national governments have opted not to make their residents pay the higher fee to attend universities within their borders.

According to the HESA figures, the University of Oxford topped the table, boasting a surplus of £191m, with Imperial College London and Liverpool University coming in second and third place respectively. Scotland’s entire university sector surplus totalled £166m, £25m less than Oxford University, of which £100m belonged to Glasgow and Edinburgh universities.

The extent of the troubles facing the Open University was also revealed, after it experienced a £7m deficit, the widest in Britain, a year after suffering a £17m loss and a sharp decline in numbers. The Open University’s combination of distance learning and part-time study has lost its attraction following the introduction of the higher tuition fees and, according to Gordon Marsden, Labour’s shadow minister for higher education, the announcement underlines the ‘very fragile and worrying situation for lifelong learning’.

Quoted in The Guardian, A spokesperson for University UK, which represents the sector, stated, ‘UK universities do not make a profit. Any income they receive is spent on day-to-day activated, or reinvested for the future.

A surplus is essential for universities to manage short-term fluctuations in income, from unanticipated changes to student numbers or expected costs. It is also needed for reinvestment in future capacity, including investment in new teaching spaces and research facilities, and refurbishment of existing buildings.’

Jonny Chard

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