The university is committed to providing transparency and clarity on its finances and how our income is invested, particularly tuition fees.
Like most universities, King’s is a not-for-profit organisation. This means that any income for the year in excess of expenditure is a ‘surplus’. A surplus is not the same thing as a ‘profit,’ which might be returned to business shareholders. The focus of a not-for-profit organisation isn’t to make a profit, but to pursue its stated objectives and so any surplus is invested back in support of these objectives. In the case of King’s, any surplus we generate allows us to invest in delivering exceptional education, impactful research and beneficial service to society.
Being a not-for-profit organisation means our income must cover our expenditure and investment needs if we are to support our students and our research endeavours over the long term. As part of the regulations set by the Charity Commission, the university is required to maintain reasonable reserves to continue its operations in perpetuity. This is to mitigate against uncertainty and protect the organisation against unexpected external changes. To do so we aim to return annual surpluses whenever possible. Any surplus can also be invested in support of the objectives of the university.
Financial statements for the year ending 31 July 2022 (pdf 1.13MB).
The headlines for 2021-22
The past two years have been exceptional, as the world adapted and changed at an unprecedented pace. In this context, the financial results for 2021–22 demonstrate strong financial management underpinned by the exceptional efforts of King’s staff, who showed such dedication to our students during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prudent financial management prior to and during the pandemic has ensured that we had the flexibility to respond to the challenges of COVID-19 and support our community. Longer term, these same attributes of sound financial management will facilitate the future viability of King’s through investment in the university’s development and future success.
Our financial results report a significant £244.8m deficit, owing to the 2020 USS Pension Valuation, which concluded in 2022, increasing our deficit provision by £283.8m. After taking out this one-off cost, our underlying financial performance was a surplus from our normal operations of £42.2m, consistent with the previous year.
These sums are already carefully earmarked for ongoing working capital and liquidity, as well as for the completion of capital projects to enhance our teaching and research. This includes long term projects to improve and develop our state-of-the-art facilities and campuses, which will enhance teaching and research, and is an investment in both our students and the student experience. These include the long-term development of the Quad Engineering Building on the Strand Campus which was completed in August 2022, the London Institute for Healthcare Engineering within the St Thomas’ campus and investment in our IT infrastructure to deliver on these objectives and enhance student learning.
Student and staff recruitment
Our finances also reflect increasing student numbers from the COVID-impacted recruitment rounds of 2020 and 2021, with consequent impact on our staff which we know is not a sustainable basis on which to operate.
In response, our approach to student recruitment in 2022–23 was cautious, ensuring that our student intake more closely matched our projections. Staff recruitment has improved as the year progressed and we have grown our staff base to support our students and better match our student numbers.
Inflation and cost of living
With inflation at a level we’ve not seen in recent decades, we are entering a period where prudent financial management is more important than ever. We are also conscious of the impact the rise in cost of living will have on the King’s community.
In November 2022 we announced a £3 million package to support students with the rising cost of living which includes additional bursary payments and hardship funding, and enhancing the food and drink offers across King’s campuses.
We have increased the London Weighting Allowance by £500 to £4000 per year which is paid to staff to reflect the higher cost of working in London. We have also looked at ways to further support students and staff through initiatives on our campuses such as discounts through King’s Food, additional resources and reminders of support currently available.
Uncertainty around the USS pension scheme, its cost and recent deficits, continue to present a significant issue across the Higher Education sector. With completion of the March 2020 valuation this year, a significant change in scheme benefits has been enacted to ensure the scheme remains affordable to both members and employers. This has understandably proved unpopular and led to industrial action during the year. Recently more positive updates from the USS Trustee give hope that the scheme’s deficit is reducing or possibly even moving back into surplus, offering a potential opportunity to improve benefits and cost as part of the March 2023 valuation. However, economic and market volatility in the second half of 2022 means that a high degree of uncertainty remains around the next valuation.
Investing in a sustainable future
UK universities face financial challenges and even in this difficult economic climate we must invest in our future success and embed a sustainable future into our decision-making for the long-term benefit of students and staff.
This will require significant cash investment over the next two years which, alongside spend on strategic investment, will utilise cash from our recent debt raise and asset sales we have held for this purpose. This supports the future focus of Strategy 2026 and is dependent upon us being able to generate sustainable surpluses over the medium term at a margin, which provides both funds for reinvestment and servicing of our debt.
At the end of 2021-22 our overall cash balances held steady at £379.3m, after the investment of £170m to enable the university to best meet the new challenges of the post-pandemic world. This included the purchase of the freehold of the South West Wing of Bush House on the Strand, a significant acquisition for the university which will allow us to provide long-term cost savings as we exit properties currently occupied under lease.
We are reviewing our estate strategy post-COVID and will commence the planning and development of Bush House South West Wing to bring this into use. This building – combined with our investment in the broader Bush House complex, the Quad and the Macadam Building – and Westminster Council’s pedestrianisation of the land between the Strand Building and Bush House, supports creating a truly exceptional academic site for our current and future students.
IT infrastructure and systems are increasingly important as ways of teaching and working have changed as a result of the pandemic and we look to ensure that our staff are focused on work which enables excellence in teaching and research rather than transactional activities. Student expectations on quality, value and the support they want – and need – have changed and we will be investing strategically in this area in the coming years.
Above: Cash commitments and investments from 2021-22 onwards
The President & Principal and the University Executive remain committed to managing university finances in a way that ensures strategic goals are met, key investments are made in our education and research facilities and that our students are prepared for the challenges and opportunities of today and tomorrow.
King’s derives its income from a variety of sources, utilising a number of different funding and income streams to support high quality teaching and research. At least 20% of our income can only be spent on specific activities. Some examples of this include money received in competitive research grants and funding from the NHS for placements and targeted research projects.
The below chart provides a breakdown of where our money came from in the 2021-22 financial year:
King’s invests its income in a variety of areas, all geared towards supporting education and research. The below chart expresses exactly where our income was spent in the 2021-22 financial year:
- Academic department costs - all staff, equipment and day to day costs in academic departments
- Administration and support services - for example Human Resources, Finance and Admissions
- General education expenditure - for example student recruitment and scholarships
- Staff and student facilities - for example the careers centre, counselling service and sports facilities
- Premises - all estates and facilities costs, including academic spaces
- Residences and catering operations – all costs associated with the running of our student residences and catering outlets
- Research grants and contracts – direct costs incurred in the performance and support of our research activity
- Interest and other finance costs – the annual cost of the university’s loans and debt facilities
- Depreciation – the cost of the university’s assets spread over the life of those assets
We spent over £118m in the year on student services, including libraries, residences, and welfare, with further investment on the student experience within individual departments. In the past year we spent £13.9m on access and participation including £10.1m in the form of bursaries and other support to eligible undergraduate students.
Other operating expenditure has increased in-line with the growth in teaching and research activity, and overall was up £76.1m (23.1 per cent) compared to 2020–21, as cost controls put in place during the height of the pandemic have been relaxed. This has been particularly observed in international related activity, with increases in travel and conference attendance costs.
With inflation reaching 10 per cent across the year, our operating expenditure is also starting to feel its impact with upward pressure on costs across all activities, both capital and revenue. The increasing cost of fuel and power is of particular concern and this is only expected to worsen in 2022–23.
Tuition fee income, which continues to be at the core of the university’s operations, has shown a 20.8 per cent year-on-year increase. International student numbers remained strong over the past two years in the face of the challenges presented to international travel by the pandemic. Home student numbers grew beyond our plans due to two years of recruitment uncertainty around the awarding of A-Level grades, resulting in total student numbers growing by 22 per cent compared to pre-pandemic levels.
Domestic tuition fees are capped at £9,250 by the UK Government until at least 2025, there are also externally set limits on the number of clinical students we can recruit to manage the demand for NHS clinical placements. Fees for international students and for postgraduate courses are set by the university and reviewed annually. They are based on the cost to deliver the course, demand and any publicly available competitor information.
Fees for undergraduate international students are higher than those paid by their home counterparts. Our teaching for home students is funded partly by the UK Government giving us a set amount for teaching each student, topping up the home fee charged. We do not receive funding from the UK Government for any of our international students, and therefore the higher fee charged covers the full unsubsidised cost of their education.
We are proud of the university’s performance in REF 2021, and the strength of reputation as a research university is reflected in our research income growing by £33.3m (17.7 per cent). This brings with it a challenge as most research funding does not cover the full economic cost of its performance. We have improved productivity in research during 2021–22, increasing overheads recovered and their contribution to our infrastructure costs. Research, alongside teaching, is core to our purpose as a university, and we will continue to seek to grow our research activity alongside improved financial sustainability.
Our pipeline of research grant wins has continued to be strong in 2021–22. We expect this growth in our research wins in recent years to translate into increased research income in 2022–23 supported by an increase in grants from funders who cover more of the full economic cost of performing research, such as estates overheads and the cost of support services.
King’s invests funds from philanthropic gifts in pooled endowment trusts to generate income to support studentships, academic posts or other purposes agreed with the donor. Endowment trusts are a type of fund set up for a charity or charitable cause, typically used by universities for education programmes. The university mainly invests its endowments in managed funds run by professional investors and not directly into individual companies.
The value of our endowments moves in line with asset values on the global investment markets and can skew our published financial results, in 2021-22 global markets struggled reducing the value of our endowment assets by £9.5m.
King’s maintains and regularly reviews an ethical investment policy (ethical-investment-policy.pdf (kcl.ac.uk)). King’s specifically invests in funds that proactively screen to avoid controversial and unethical sectors and industries. The university invests in funds that actively target positive social and green investments. The university has no exposure to tobacco producers or fossil fuels, through these funds or any other endowment investment activity.