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Latest figures show increases in universities' income, surpluses and reserves

26 April 2018

UK universities' income increased by £915m (2.7%) between 2015/16 and 2016/17, according to figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA). During that time they made a surplus of £2.3bn and now have total reserves of £44.27bn.

The data also revealed an increase in capital expenditure, but that the proportion of money spent on staff had not improved. Compared to seven years ago, the percentage of expenditure spent on staff has fallen by 3.35%, but the percentage spent on capital expenditure has shot up by 34.9% over that period.

UCU said the figures made a mockery of universities' claims that staff were a top priority. Staff in universities have seen their pay fall by around 20% since 2009, while university leaders' pay and perks have gone largely unchecked.

The union said that the figures also suggested universities paid no attention to what students wanted most from their education, as they have called for investment in staff over buildings*.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: 'With capital expenditure shooting up and staff costs coming down, it is clear that universities have been prioritising investment in buildings over staff. This makes a mockery of claims that staff are a top priority and also suggests they ignore what students say they want.

'While universities' income rises and they hoard huge reserves, it seems the only people to benefit are vice-chancellors whose pay and perks have long been a source of embarrassment for higher education. The time has come to address the fall in staff pay and we hope the universities will respond positively at next month's pay talks.'

Key findings:

  • Total income increased by £915m (2.7%) and now stands at £35.7bn
  • Surplus for the year is £2.3bn - which is 6.4% of income
  • Income from tuition fees increased by £931m (5.5%)
  • Net current assets up by 8.6% (£551m) to £6.8bn across the sector
  • Unrestricted income and expenditure reserves increased by £3bn (10.7%) to £31.6bn total
  • Total reserves of £44.27bn - up from £12.33bn in 2009/10

* See page 48 which says the top three ways universities should save money according to students are:

1 Spend less on buildings
2 Spend less on sports/social facilities
3 Increase class sizes.

 Similarly, the three most unpopular options are:
1 Reduce spending on student support services
2 Fewer hours of teaching
3 Reduce spending on learning facilities

Last updated: 26 April 2018