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After a week of largely disappointing news for UK higher education, Nicola Owen, Deputy Chief Executive (Operations) at Lancaster University, fears that gloomy forecasts for the future of the sector may prove to be uncomfortably accurate.
Loughborough University has been named University of the Year for the second time in three years in the latest Whatuni Student Choice Awards .
The total income of higher education providers in the UK last year was £33.2 billion – an increase of 8 per cent on the previous year - official figures show.
In England, higher level fees helped to swell operating surpluses to the record level of nearly £1.8 billion, up from £1.1 billion in the previous two years.
The Higher Education Statistics Agency data also shows that total expenditure across the sector was £31.2 billion – up from 29.4 billion in 2013/14. Staff costs were just over £17 billion, of which academic staff accounted for £9.5 billion.
Across the sector, income and expenditure have both increased over the last three years. However, eight institutions in the UK saw their income fall over the same period; Bedfordshire, Cumbria, Liverpool Hope, Middlesex, Glyndwr, University of Wales Trinity St David and Abertay Dundee.
The biggest source of income in 2014/15 was tuition fees and other education contracts bringing in £15.5 billion, followed by "other income" such as accommodation and grants from local and hospital authorities (£6 billion), research grants and contracts (£5.9 billion), funding body grants (£5.3 billion), and endowment and investment income (£360 million).
Funding body grants have fallen by 25 per cent over the past three years from 7 billion in 2012/13, while research grants and contracts have increase by 23 per cent from £4.7 billion over the same period. Staff costs in 2012/13 were £15.4 billion.
International students brought in £4.2 billion last year, nearly 13 per cent of the income generated.
European Union funding of £836 million (excluding EU student tuition fees) accounted for 2.5 per cent of the total income.
The recurrent teaching grant was £2.3 billion – just over 7 per cent of the total income, while residences and catering operations, including conferences, made £1.9 billion.
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