Reserves rise but Oxbridge still wary

January 2, 1998

Both OXFORD and Cambridge universities claim to face a shaky financial future despite having increased their reserves this year.

Accounts published this month by the two universities show that Cambridge holds reserves worth Pounds 473.6 million, of which Pounds 413.6 million is tied up in property. Oxford's reserves are worth Pounds 94 million.

But in her report for the year ended July 31, 1997, Joanna Womack, treasurer of Cambridge, said the university faced "worrying financial pressures" and did not have sufficient reserves to meet ongoing and capital costs. "Financial planning continues to be difficult, and the need to take a cautious long-term view must once again be emphasised," she said.

The university council's annual report says that 50 staff will have to go over the next three years.

A report on Oxford's financial position warns: "The university cannot yet feel comfortable, despite the success of the research assessment exercise, which has led to substantial additional recurrent funding in 1997-98 and beyond, while so many other uncertainties remain. The recently announced threat to college fee income is only one example of how problems develop rapidly."

Cambridge's income rose by 5.7 per cent to Pounds 282.4 million last year, despite a 1.5 per cent cut in grants from the Higher Education Funding Council for England and the Teacher Training Agency.

Receipts from research grants and contracts climbed by 9.2 per cent, while income from endowments and interest rose by 8.8 per cent. Expenditure increased by 5.5 per cent. Cambridge's total net assets were Pounds 953 million, an increase of Pounds 111 million.

In July 1997, Oxford had total net assets of Pounds 430 million, an increase of Pounds 54 million. Its income rose by 4.6 per cent, including a 7 per cent increase in academic fees through modest growth and a large fee hike for visiting students.

Research grants and contracts accounted for an extra 2.5 per cent, compared with more than 10 per cent in the previous year. Finance officers say the reason for this is because more grants come from charitable bodies that do not pay overheads. They also blame changing research council policies for causing delays.

Oxford's benefactions and donations grew from Pounds 7.3 million to Pounds 10.7 million, while the university's spending rose by 4.2 per cent.

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