Durham University’s latest financial accounts leave the University with serious questions to answer on the spending of college fees.
They reveal that, thanks to large rises in college fees over recent years, the University received an income of over £40m from what it terms ‘residences, catering and conferences’.
However, the accounts also reveal that the University spent only £24.6m on the staff and other costs of the services in colleges, despite an email sent to all students which explained rises in college fees for the year 2016/17 suggesting that operational costs were around £28m just for colleges and catering.
Overall, the University posted a surplus of over £20m. Turnover reached £320m, a £70m rise on just four years ago.
The university therefore has questions to answer:
- Why, when it has the information, is this buried opaquely on the financial statements rather than being out in the open?
- Why is there the discrepancy between the figure published in the accounts and that which was sent to students?
- Why does the University see fit to levy such a large amount to stay in College when it spends so much less than what it earns from colleges?
- Why, when the University posts such a significant surplus, does it see fit to dramatically raise accommodation fees?
- Will the University commit to releasing a detailed breakdown of College costs, with exact costs made clear in understandable language? If not, why not?
In the foreword to the financial statements, the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Stuart Corbridge, trumpets Durham’s accessibility. He suggests that “We also continue to… enhance access to Durham for the most able and motivated students from all backgrounds.” These increasingly feel like empty words. How can a University which chooses to charge residence fees above the reach of so many students despite making a £20m surplus in just one year claim to be accessible or ethical?