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University's financial performance among best in UK

Vice-Chancellor highlights rapid growth in turnover
The University of Leicester’s improvement in financial performance over the past four years is among the best of any UK university, it has been revealed. 

It means the University can aspire to achieve projects it could once only dream about, the Vice-Chancellor Professor Robert Burgess told the 47th annual meeting of the Court, the University’s governing body. In his annual report to academic and lay members, Professor Burgess focused on the theme Developing Institutional Performance and highlighted the changes that had occurred since 1999 when he was appointed as Vice-Chancellor.

“This is my fifth year, and it provides me with an opportunity to compare trend data on how the University has developed,” said Professor Burgess. “When people think about higher education, they have a series of perceptions by which they evaluate a university – I want to focus on five of these:

Research performance

Quality of teaching and learning

Interaction with the region

How the estate is presented and maintained

Finance – how surpluses are generated for ploughing back into academic developments

“When I came to Leicester, indeed one of the factors that attracted me to the post, was the huge potential the University had - it wanted to succeed, and wanted to be placed among those universities that were highly ranked.

“Where did we stand in 1999? At that time the Council and the University had watched the delivery of deficits for seven years, apart from one year when the University sold a parcel of land in Northampton. The profile of the University was as follows:

Finance 7 year deficit
Research 56% RAE 4 and 5
Teaching 1 score of 22
Publicity Local
Estate 2 new academic buildings in 10 years
Conferences Held at University - but not massive generator of income

“The University also had many distinctive features, not least the fact that its student population was 50% postgraduate. The University staff had huge potential –I am very impressed with activities that professorial staff engage in and the levels of research grant and contract income earned by members of staff – but I am sure they can impress me even more and set higher records.”

Professor Burgess cited areas that are being developed, for example Criminology, as an area of social science research that linked policy and practice, and which impinged on the natural sciences and the life sciences. It is the University’s ambition to build that department up to a very high order in terms of research and teaching. Related multidisciplinary work in subjects like Psychiatry, Law, Genetics, Pathology and Psychology could be pulled together and developed even further to provide a very strong research base, he said.

In Arts, he highlighted how Leicester had achieved great renown for Combined Arts and he said the provision of new joint honours degrees in the Faculty of Arts was now a fast growing and exciting development. “People can see we have quality degrees and we need to repackage them and offer them in different ways,” he said.

Commenting on the type of university Leicester is, Professor Burgess said the term Civic University reflected the ethos and aspiration of Leicester: “It is very important that the University interacts with society and contributes to it. The University has to be very good internationally and locally – as I said when I arrived here, “If we want to be good in New York, we have to be good in Oadby”.

“The international University impacts on the region in many ways, by providing high quality teachers, social workers, doctors, lawyers and more who all contribute to the locality. This is also why Court is so important as it re-emphasizes our connection with Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland and the wider region.” In this context, Professor Burgess highlighted how Leicester had extended its network of links with HE and FE colleges, and particularly associations with Bishop Grosseteste College in Lincoln and Newman College in Birmingham.

“We see great potential for the work we can do with these colleges and this will in turn have an impact on our interaction in the wider region.”

The Vice-Chancellor praised staff and their enthusiasm to succeed: “One thing that is exceedingly important about the University is the culture that exists and the enthusiasm of its members. A University is only as good as the enthusiasm, the energy, the effort and expertise that can be contributed by its members – that underpins the whole of the attributes that we have at the University,” he said.

Professor Burgess highlighted another critical success factor for the university - the increase in student recruitment:


UNDERGRADUATE ADMISSIONS Home International Outcome Home Outcome International

INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003
Numbers 380 490 657 973 1005

Taught Masters (campus-based and DL) 6,532 7,353 7,997 7,718
PhD Research 1,142 1,172 1,247 1,487
TOTALS 7,674 8,525 9,244 9,205

Turning to the running of the University, Professor Burgess said: “Running a University with a turnover of £155m is like running a company with higher education at its heart. The objective is to produce surpluses which are ploughed back into the academic development of the University.” 

He said the former decentralised method of budget control had not allowed the University to develop in a strong way. The current centralised system, with the involvement of Deans provided a strong interaction between the management team and academic departments and had allowed the University to generate surpluses and to pave the way for new activities and development of the estate. 

“The University is now generating a surplus, as it has done for the past three years, and it exudes confidence. We have seen a steady rise in our league table position from being in the low 30s to becoming a top 20 University as ranked by the Financial Times for the past three years. Our aim is to be ranked in the top 20 in all media assessments of the quality of universities.” 

Speaking of new projects and developments, Professor Burgess described recent building work, for example the refurbishment of the Chemistry building, Archaeology and Ancient History, the development of the new Space Research and Mathematical Modelling building and the Biomedical Research Building. Court heard that the new £20m Biomedical building would be called the Henry Wellcome Building and the lecture theatre would be named after Dr Frank and Katherine May. 

He said the University was planning to double the size of the Library and the appointment of Nicholas Corah as Special Pro-Chancellor in charge of fundraising aimed to help the University achieve an ambition to raise £20m in five years. He added a two-week pilot alumni fundraising operation has raised £20,000 which demonstrated the huge amount of goodwill that existed towards the University and provided the potential for more fundraising. 

A key change in the profile of the University had also been the number of new people who had joined the workforce – there were 75 new professors out of 180, said Professor Burgess. 

Professor Burgess cited the exceptional increase in turnover as one of the great successes of the University, particularly as a result of business activities such as conferences and catering, and he congratulated staff on their achievements. 

1999/00 122,942
2000/01 132,634
2001/02 145,842
2002/03 155,056
% CHANGE OVER 4 YEARS:   25%  

Professor Burgess highlighted how total income for the year was now over £155m while expenditure was £152.5m generating a surplus of £2.5m.
In conclusion, Professor Burgess reflected on some of the critical differences in the University as it was in 1999 and now: 


1996 56% Grades 4 and 5
2001 84% Grades 4 and 5

Excellent Scores Pre-1999: 22+: 1
Excellent Scores Post-1999: 22-24: 12


Leicester is in or around the top 20 in many media league tables and has been named in the top 20 UK universities for three consecutive years by the Financial Times and has been cited as 102nd in a world ranking of universities.


  1999 2003
Finance 7 year deficit 3 year surplus
Research 56% RAE 4 AND 5 84% RAE 4 AND 5
Teaching 1 score of 22 12 of 22+ (last year all at 24)
Publicity Local Local and national
Estate 3 new academic buildings in 10 years 2 refurbished, 1 new building completed, 
1 to be completed, 1 planned
Conference   +20%

Top up fees 

The Vice-Chancellor broached the issue of top-up fees in his address to Court. He said:
“This University is committed to the Higher Education Bill and to charging top-up fees if Parliament permits. It is a way of generating income for the University and if you want to maintain quality and excellence in terms of research, teaching and, most fundamentally, the student experience, it is very important that universities in the UK should be allowed to charge top-up fees because there is no other source of Government income available on the table at the present time. If you want a high quality higher education system in the UK, then that is the system you must support.

“If one looks at what top-up fees mean in terms of payback, we are talking roughly £9 per week when a graduate’s income rises to £18,000 a year. This is a small price to pay in terms of what we are trying to achieve in terms of the quality of education in the higher education sector and the University of Leicester in particular.”

Vice-Chancellor's Statement, Annual Report 2002-03

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Last updated: 9 March 2004 16:40
Created by: Barbara Whiteman

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