Universities in the money?

UNISON calls on higher education employers to invest in staff after £1bn+ surplus unveiled for third year in a row

Higher education employers should invest record surpluses in staff, UNISON said today after English universities announced record surpluses of £1.8bn – their third year of £1bn-plus surpluses.

“We keep being told by the employers they are living hand to mouth,” noted UNISON national secretary Jon Richards.

“Yet senior leaders’ pay keeps going up apace, and they keep expanding student numbers to keep the cash rolling in.

“It is clear that universities have the money to reward their employees.”

UNISON launched a pay campaign under the slogan “invest in my university, invest in me” at its higher education conference in late February.

Now the latest official figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency show that during the last academic year, higher education providers in England spent £25.9bn in total, while taking in £27.7bn, helped by £9,000-a-year tuition fees*.

That gave English universities a surplus of £1.8bn for 2014-15, well above the £1.1bn reached in 2013-14 and in 2012-13.

That £700m increase in the surplus of English universities outstripped other parts of the UK – in fact, Oxford’s surplus alone was larger than the whole of Scotland’s university sector.

Scotland’s institutions recorded a total surplus of£166m, with £100m going to the Glasgow and Edinburgh universities.

“It is hard-working staff who provide students with a world class learning environment, that  is a huge benefit for the UK economy,” said Mr Richards.

“In return, all we seek is fair pay, the accredited living wage for the lowest paid and a serious attempt at tackling gender pay inequality.

“An investment in higher education staff is an investment in the future of higher education.”


*While tuition fees have helped boost the surpluses of the sector overall in England, they have seen a continued fall in the number of part-time and mature students. The Open Universty, which relies on huge numbers of part-time students, recorded a loss of £17m in 2014-15, on top of their previous year’s £7m deficit.