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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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