Uclan sets aside £2.8m to cover losses overseas

University says that provision should be seen in context of a £10 million surplus across the institution as a whole

March 19, 2015

Source: University of Central Lancashire

The University of Central Lancashire has put aside £2.8 million to guard against further losses on its overseas campuses as its Cyprus branch lost more money and again drew criticism from the United Nations secretary-general.

Uclan’s Cyprus campus recorded a loss of £1.4 million in 2013-14, following on from a £1.7 million loss the previous year. The university blamed the losses on “disappointing” recruitment, which it says has now improved. Uclan had been planning a Sri Lanka campus, but now says that it is also looking at “alternative approaches”.

A deal for another planned campus in Thailand had previously collapsed before building started.

The £2.8 million deduction and separate Cyprus loss are revealed in Uclan’s 2013-14 accounts. The university said that they should be seen in the context of a “very strong” £10 million surplus across the institution as a whole. But the figures may raise further questions about the strategy pursued by Malcolm McVicar, its former group chief executive.

After Dr McVicar’s planned retirement last year, Richard Hext took over as group chief executive, arriving from a career in shipping.

Uclan Cyprus, recruiting mainly Greek Cypriot students, was built in the UN-policed buffer zone between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot sides of the island. It is located in Pyla, one of Cyprus’ last mixed villages.

In his latest report on Cyprus to the UN Security Council, published in January, Ban Ki-moon, UN secretary-general, says: “Regrettably, the university in Pyla, the construction of which remains unauthorized, continues to operate with next to no Turkish Cypriot involvement.”

The Cyprus campus is operated by a joint venture between Uclan and a Greek Cypriot property developer, with the joint venture company leasing the building. Accounts for Uclan (Overseas) Limited detail the overall Cyprus losses in 2013-14, shared by the joint venture partner and Uclan. “As a result of the low recruitment losses for the year amounted to E3.6 million (£2.6 million), with accumulated losses now standing at E7.8 million,” the accounts say.

The accounts add that “a major financial restructure” of the Cyprus campus is under way, after which “the long term future of the campus will be secure”.

In last year’s Uclan group accounts, £3.2 million had been written down on the Thailand project, which collapsed after a dispute with its joint venture partner, a Thai businessman.

The 2013-14 Uclan (Overseas) accounts state that the settlement previously negotiated “has not been honoured by the Thai joint venture partner”. Attempts may be made “toward the recovery of further monies but whilst awaiting the outcome of this work, a prudent decision has been made to provide for the outstanding amounts”, the accounts add.

A Uclan spokesman said: “The new leadership team has taken a prudent view and advised provisions of £2.8 million against possible future losses on our investments in Cyprus, Sri Lanka and Thailand.” He added that “we expect Uclan Cyprus to become profitable in 2018-19 and, in academic terms, its performance is excellent”.

“There is absolutely no doubt that international activities will continue to remain core to our overall strategy,” he continued. “We also stress that our international ventures were not funded from UK public funds, and that the international losses will have no bearing on our ability to deliver the exciting £200 million campus redevelopment programme here in Preston that we recently announced.”


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