Old take better snapshots than new

July 5, 1996

Last Friday was the deadline for English universities to file financial forecasts with the funding council. Not all met the deadline. With a cash crisis looming, THES reporters look at the sums and who carries the can when they do not add up

Startling differences in the relative financial strengths of universities emerge in statistics released today that show old ones are, on average, more than 50 per cent "fatter" than the former polytechnics.

The Higher Education Statistics Agency report for 1994/95 is the first showing financial profiles of both old and new universities and it reveals vast differences in wealth, mainly reserves, of institutions.

HESA chiefs have identified the best indicator of financial strength as the "days ratio" of total general funds to total expenditure. HESA defines total general funds as "endowments; general plus reserves; income and expenditure account". The average days ratio - the number of days an institution could afford to cover all expenditure should all funding cease - for old universities works out at 120 days compared to 77 for new universities, a 55 per cent difference.

Looking at the same set of figures, of the ten institutions with the highest days ratio, seven are old universities, though, Staffordshire University, with 360 days, enjoys the highest ratio of all institutions.

HESA chief Brian Ramsden said that while these and other indicators showed financial strength they were only "snapshots".

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