Revealed: How much does your college spend on you?

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An investigation by The Oxford Student has found huge variations in the amount colleges spend on their students.

Topping our ranking is St John’s, which spent more money on the “core activities” of teaching, research and residential services than their entire income.

St John’s spent 110 per cent of its income for the 2012/2013 financial year on their students, compared to a median of 70.1 per cent.

For the purposes of the investigation, we identified “core activities” as those which most directly affect students –  most notably teaching, research and residential services.

Yet the average college receives only 43 per cent of its income as a result of tuition fees, government support, grants and other revenue associated with these core activities.

Bottom of the table was Linacre, a graduate college, spending just 47.6 per cent of its income on teaching, research and residential services. Linacre also came joint 33rd out of 36 on the measure of how well colleges subsidised these areas.

Linacre’s President, Nick Brown, said that: “Linacre College is very unusual among Oxford colleges in that no fellow receives a salary for teaching from the college. No fellow is paid a housing or entertainment allowance. As a consequence, we spend much less on “teaching”.”

However, while the total incomes of the colleges rose by 11 per cent during the financial year, expenditure on teaching, research and residential provision rose only 6 per cent.

Due to unusually high donations in 2013 for some colleges (such as Oriel), which inflates income and skews the figure for proportion of income spent on core activities, some data has been used from 2012.

The average (median) college subsidised their expenditure on their core activities by 50 percent. All Souls, another college for graduate students and whose income was derived almost entirely from investments, was able to subsidise their teaching, research and residential services by an eye-watering 1440 per cent.

Our investigation also found that college wealth mattered for more than just bragging rights, with the richer colleges more prepared to subsidise their teaching. Overall, there was strong positive correlation (Pearson’s, 0.65) between the total assets of a college and the level of their subsidisation for the core activities. This leads to a positive, but slightly weaker, correlation between college wealth and their Norrington table rank.

College accounts also showed increased commercial involvement with third parties, such as hosting conferences and functions, with the income from these commercial activities rising 5 per cent across all colleges. However, due to many colleges engaging with these activities through subsidiary companies, the exact revenue from just conferences and other events could not be seen.

All data is taken from the Charity Commission, the colleges’ financial statements for 2012/2013 and 2011/2012 financial years, and the aggregate college financial statement published by the University. Kellogg and St Cross College do not have Royal Charters, and their accounts are thus bundled into the University’s financial statement.

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