Oldest still best endowed

July 23, 2004

University finances are improving but the figures reveal a wide disparity between the haves and the have-nots. Chris Johnston and Alan Thomson report

The UK's two oldest universities, Cambridge and Oxford, are still streets ahead of their rivals in the size of their endowments.

Yet the youngest institution on the block - the newly merged Manchester University - has displaced Glasgow University and taken fourth place in the academic investment table. Edinburgh University retains its third place.

Cambridge University maintains its position at the top of the table, with endowments worth more than £413 million as of July 31, 2003. The university saw nearly £47 million wiped off the value of its funds between 2002 and 2003, largely due to lower interest rates. It also reflected what a spokesman described as new "accounting treatments".

By contrast, Oxford University saw the value of its endowments rise by 4 per cent from just over £390 million in 2002 to £405 million in 2003 - drawing closer to its ancient rival.

Manchester has seen an 18 per cent rise in the value of its endowments - to £92 million.

A Manchester spokeswoman said the university had sold a farm in Cambridgeshire for £11 million. The farm had been left to the university some years ago by a former student and academic.

Its merger with the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology will boost its endowments to nearly £95 million.

UK university endowments appear to be recovering slowly from the post-9/11 slump in share prices. The total value of endowments for UK institutions stood at just over £2.38 billion in 2003, up by 1.5 per cent from just under £2.35 billion in 2002.

Warwick University experienced the biggest percentage fall in its endowments with a drop of more than 20 per cent, from nearly £2.7 million in 2002 to just over £2.1 million. A Warwick spokesman said the university had spent part of its endowment, some £550,000, on equipment for a new medical research institute.

Surrey University, meanwhile, saw its endowments drop by £3.6 million, or nearly 6 per cent, to almost £58 million, due largely to capital investment in its new Postgraduate Medical School plus a revaluation of its research park.

Imperial College London saw endowments drop by 5 per cent from just over Pounds 40 million to just over £38 million. It returned £3 million of British Heart Foundation grants after the charity's decision to directly fund rather than endow university chairs.

University net assets also increased overall from £15.3 billion in 2002 to nearly £16.6 billion in 2003, a rise of 9.4 per cent.

Cambridge, Oxford and Edinburgh again occupied the top three positions with Birmingham University taking fourth place. Cambridge retained its position as the only billionaire UK university with assets of £1.3 billion.

Loughborough University recorded one of the biggest rises with a 32 per cent jump to more than £106 million - generated by National Lottery grants to establish facilities as part of the English Institute of Sport.

Nottingham University saw its assets grow to £210 million after selling much of its off-campus student accommodation.

The report Resources of Higher Education Institutions 2002/03 is available from Hesa, www.hesa.ac.uk

Vital statistics 2002-03

  • 0.7 per cent increase in numbers of male staff over the year
  • 5.7 per cent increase in numbers of female staff over the last year
  • 13.4 per cent of the sector's expenditure is on administration and central services
  • 25.1 per cent of external research grants come from UK charities
  • per cent of academic staff are employed in medicine, dentistry or health departments
  • 29 per cent of the sectors' income from fees and education grants comes from overseas students
  • 42 average age of academic staff
  • 1,860 number of female professors
  • 11,310 number of male professors
  • 15,561,971,000 pounds annual income for the academic sector

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