This week HESA have published the latest details on expenditure by universities, with details of this for 2013-14. As an institution we have just gone through our own internal budget meetings and so it’s interesting to see how the money is spent across the sector.
Firstly, lets just consider the size of expenditure. For 2013-14, this was £29.4bn against income of £30.7bn, up from £25.8bn against income of £26.8bn in 2009-10.
As we go into election week, this is a reminder of the size of the sector and its growing importance to the economy, as well as the non-financial benefits of higher education that accrue to both the individual and to society.
The Times Higher reports on the data, identifying that the average surplus has gone up in the last year, and that the surpluses “support the view that the sector as a whole is financially sound”.
From that article, Phil McNaull, director of finance at the University of Edinburgh and deputy chair of the British Universities Finance Directors Group says
that surpluses should not lead people to think that things were now rosy.
“People look at organisations making a surplus and they think ‘profit’; they think you’re OK,” he says. “They don’t understand that you need to make surpluses to fund the future.”
And the future does hold challenges for the sector. Chief among them is the demand for capital spending, which is already evident on a walk around most university campuses: the growth in the number of shiny new buildings reflects how improving the student experience has become a priority amid an increasingly competitive recruitment environment.
I think we are all well aware of this, and that’s why the proposed new developments for our Stoke on Trent campus, on top of the work already carried out mean that we will be able to offer a great student experience in a city centre campus.