How is the University of Bath performing financially? How are decisions about financial investment made? What does our long term financial future look like? And how do we compare to other universities?
If these are the sort of questions that interest you, Martin Williams’ talk as Bath AUA’s first guest speaker for 2018, was the place to be.
Martin stepped into the role of Director of Finance in August 2017, having previously been the University’s Chief Financial Officer. In his first AUA talk, Martin provided an overview of the University’s financial performance.
It can be difficult to please everybody with these kind of talks. Too many PowerPoint graphs and financial figures can baffle and bore a general audience, while oversimplified presentations risk frustrating the experts in the room. Martin pitched his talk perfectly, taking time to explain key terms like ‘operating cashflow’, and ‘debt ratio’ – and telling us the story behind the numbers.
That story, in a nutshell, is that the University is in a healthy position. We are currently undergoing a period of substantial investment to deliver high quality teaching and learning, research, accommodation facilities for students, and support for postgraduate growth. Our historic cost surplus was lower last year, but better than we had planned. The (gearing) ratio of debt to assets fell last year, but will rise following a new loan and the increase in investment. The University has borrowed an additional £100m at very low rates, which reflects our reputation and financial strength.
The University should continue to maintain a budgeted surplus of 3% (of income). The biggest risk to this is political uncertainty. The impact of Brexit, changes to tuition fees, and the cap on student numbers are difficult to predict and could cause real concerns for universities. However, Bath is in a comparatively strong position within the sector.
Martin spoke about the need to deliver value for money as well as quality, noting that ultimately our finances are of secondary importance to the teaching, learning and research that they support.
If you missed out on Martin’s session, or want to go over the finer details, an overview of our financial performance, cash flow statements and balance sheets can all be found online at http://www.bath.ac.uk/publications/university-financial-statements/
Bath AUA (Association of University Administrators)