Finance | University of Oxford
Facsimile of a missing fragment from Tutankhamun’s tomb
Facsimile of a missing fragment from Tutankhamun’s tomb, recreated thanks to a unique photo held by the Griffith Institute
Credit: Factum_Arte


Financial review

The University retained a surplus of £184.3 million in 2014/15 compared to £38.9 million in 2013/14.







Surplus on ordinary activities
Minority interest
Transfer from expendable endowments



Net surplus for the year retained within General Reserves


Although the University has retained a large surplus this year, it has significant future capital commitments to fund pension fund deficits and a £1 billion programme of capital expenditure.

The significant increase in the surplus was largely due to a special transfer from Oxford University Press (OUP) totalling £120 million and a research and development expenditure credit claim (RDEC) totalling £66.6 million (net of tax payable). After excluding these one-off items and donations of heritage assets, the underlying University result for the year is a deficit of £12.3 million.




Net surplus for the year (as reported)
Profit on sale of NaturalMotion
Special transfer from OUP
Research and development expenditure credit claim (net of tax charge)
Donation of heritage assets



Underlying (deficit)/surplus for the year



The reasons for the change from a surplus position in 2013/14 to a deficit in 2014/15 include reduced overhead recovery on externally funded research, expenditure on the University’s share of the costs in setting up the Alan Turing Institute, increased IT expenditure to support teaching and research, demolition costs of certain buildings which are being replaced and the increased net cost of scholarships (a key University priority).

The overall increase in cash for the year was £221 million. The special transfer from the Press and partial receipt of the RDEC have contributed to a net cash inflow from operating activities of £130.3 million. Investment in capital projects totaling £133.1 million includes expenditure on the new building for the Blavatnik School of Government. The net cash impact of investment activities includes the receipt of a £200 million loan from the European Investment Bank (EIB) to provide funding for the University’s programme of improvement and expansion of research and teaching facilities.

The balance sheet position remains strong. Net assets totalled £3 billion (2014: £2.6 billion). Fixed assets increased by £266.8 million to £2,363 million and endowment asset investments increased by £128 million to £833.9 million reflecting an increase of 13.1% in market value and the receipt of new endowments.

Notwithstanding all of these challenges, the University will continue to manage its sources of revenue effectively and its costs efficiently in order to generate the positive long-term cash flow needed to ensure that Oxford maintains its pre-eminent position amongst the world’s leading universities.

External research funding and Impact

The University of Oxford has the largest volume of world-leading research in the country, according to the UK government’s 2014 assessment via the Research Excellence Framework (REF). Much of this research is funded by external sources (see box) and it is thanks to this support that Oxford researchers continue not only to advance fundamental knowledge but also to contribute to public policy, better health, economic prosperity, social cohesion, international development and the many cultural activities that enhance our quality of life. One prominent example this year of the University’s outstanding expertise was the key role its researchers played in combating the Ebola crisis (discussed elsewhere in this Annual Review). There were, of course, many other research highlights; here is a small selection.

  • Chemistry researchers developed 3D-printing techniques that create synthetic tissue-like material from thousands of miniature water droplets, each coated in a thin membrane and studded with protein pores to act like simplified cells. Spin-out company OxSyBio is seeking to produce materials for wound healing and drug delivery – and perhaps eventually tissues for organ repair – using these techniques.
  • A fine-scale genetic map of the British Isles has been created by comparing DNA samples. The researchers uncovered distinct geographical groupings of genetically similar individuals across the UK and found that there was, for example, no single ‘Celtic’ genetic group: the Cornish are more similar genetically to the English groups than they are to the Welsh or Scots and there are separate genetic groups in Devon and Cornwall that show a division almost exactly along the modern county boundary.
  • Oxford spinout Brainomix launched its e-ASPECTS software which automates expert analysis of CT brain scans to support doctors in making life-saving treatment decisions.
  • The first life-size facsimile of Tutankhamun’s tomb was created by a collaboration including Oxford’s Griffith Institute. The facsimile was deemed so accurate that, at its opening in April 2014, some of the Tutankhamun experts, Egyptologists and dignitaries who were present burst into tears. It is hoped that the structure will help in the preservation and study of the tomb.
  • A Multidimensional Poverty Index that interprets poverty as more than just ‘lack of income’ has been developed by the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative. The new index paints a comprehensive picture of poverty across its many dimensions such as health, education and living standards, thus providing governments with the information and framework for enhanced poverty reduction efforts. The index is already being used by governments in Bhutan, Colombia, Mexico, Malaysia and Chile.
  • Oxford researchers are part of a collaboration investigating how to release the huge energy potential of succulent plants that can survive in hostile environments. Simple and inexpensive technology is being developed that uses anaerobic digestor plants to create the biomass into biogas and thence electricity, creating a cheap source for energy for the world’s poorest communities.
  • Major new volumes of the work of Bertolt Brecht, including material never previously available in English, are being translated and edited by Oxford researchers. Brecht is one of the 20th century’s most important literary figures, with his theories of theatre being hugely influential. Public performances of his poetry are now helping to disseminate his less-known work.
  • Improved nutritional content of school food will be the result of new standards developed at Oxford that give clearer guidance to cooks on appropriate portion size and well-balanced meal content. The standards, which also give cooks the flexibility to be creative in the kitchen, use seasonal produce and buy in bulk, have been incorporated into the UK government’s School Food Plan.
  • Collaborative problem-solving workshops for parents and children in South Africa are proving highly effective at reducing physical and emotional abuse and harsh parenting techniques, researchers from the Department of Social Policy and Intervention are finding. The free child abuse prevention programmes, which are supported by the World Health Organisation, UNICEF and others, are intended for use in low- and middle-income countries. Results in South Africa are so promising that seven other countries have expressed an interest.
  • Research at the Institute of Biomedical Engineering is pioneering the use of nano-bubbles for targeted delivery of chemotherapy drugs. The bubbles can be transported to the desired part of the body, then burst by ultrasound to release their drugs.
The University’s research activity is underpinned by research grants and contracts with a diverse and expansive collection of third parties: 1,044 separate organisations contributed to the 2014/15 research income of £607 million. The largest funders of competitive research at Oxford are UK charities (£159 million), the UK Research Councils (£146 million) and the European Commission (£58 million). The Wellcome Trust, Medical Research Council (MRC), Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), Cancer Research UK (CRUK), Department of Health, British Heart Foundation (BHF) and Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) are the largest UK funders of research at Oxford. We are grateful to all funders, large and small, UK and overseas, for their support, and to our collaborators who facilitate high-quality research and its application for societal, economic, cultural and intellectual benefit.