The university is committed to providing transparency and clarity on its finances and in particular how our income is invested, particularly tuition fees.
Like most universities, King’s is a “not for profit” organisation. This means that any money held at the end of a financial year 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 return a surplus each year. This is to mitigate against uncertainty and protect the organisation against unexpected external changes.
Financial statements for the year ending 31 July 2021 (pdf 967KB).
The headlines for 2020-21
It is a testament to the hard work, resilience and spirit of cooperation shown by our staff and students that the university has withstood the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Over the last financial year, there has been a lot of uncertainty due to the pandemic and it was important that we managed our finances prudently. The immediate priority was to protect the student experience and ensure continued employment for all our staff – including extensions for many even when there was not the certainty of work.
A number of measures were introduced to ensure the continued financial health of the university during the pandemic. This included deferring capital expenditure, carefully managing vacancies and a voluntary six-month pay reduction for members of the senior executive team. In addition to this a number of areas were prioritised for additional support, for example:
- Offering rent rebates to students in our residences who were self-isolating or leaving early to return home to study online
- Giving care packages to students self-isolating in residences and staying with us over the winter break
- Providing a hardship fund to support students impacted by the pandemic
- Further developing and bringing forward online learning
- Extending fixed term staff contracts where possible
- Supporting essential recruitment to respond to changing workloads
- Prioritising IT projects to support student experience, digital education, remote working and cyber security
- Creating our own inhouse COVID-19 PCR testing facility, KCL TEST.
- Investing further in student support by expanding the welfare and wellbeing team and offering Pro-counselling, a 24-hour service for students in crisis
As the year progressed, we were encouraged by the continuing demand for our programmes and the continuing research efforts. Thanks to this, alongside careful planning, together with the hard work and resilience shown by our staff and students, the university made a surplus of £36.4m or 3.6% of total income.
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. King’s developments such as the Quad Engineering Building on the Strand Campus will deliver on these objectives and enhance student learning.
Further, projects undertaken in partnership, such as investment in a new centre for Children and Young People’s Mental Health on our Denmark Hill Campus will strengthen the valuable contributions our university makes to world leading research, support the work of our health care partners, and provide service to wider society.
Our overall cash balances rose in the year reflecting timing differences in our income and expenditure. The majority of our £170m increase in cash came from the planned completion of our recent debt raise that will be used to fund academic investments over the next few years.
Above: Explaining the £170.2M increase in cash balance to July 2021
Above: Cash commitments and investments from 2021-22 onwards
We also remain vigilant for any potential changes in Government policy on tuition fees that might substantially increase financial risk and will continue to maintain a sharp focus on maintaining these cash reserves.
Pensions also remain a key issue. We expect the delayed USS 2020 valuation to entail additional financial costs through future contributions and the payment of past benefits. Initial estimates suggest this will result in a near £400m cash outflow from King’s, paid over the next 18 years. This is a significant cash commitment to provide for past benefits and will be another call on our cash funds over the next few years above and beyond that shown in the graph above.
The 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 is restricted and therefore can only be spent on predetermined specific activity. Some examples of this include money received in competitive research grants, and funding from the NHS for placement and targeted research projects.
The below chart provides a breakdown of precisely where our money came from in the 2020-21 financial year.
King’s invests its income in a variety of areas, all geared towards supporting education and research. The below table expresses exactly where our income was spent in the 2020-21 financial year.
- Academic department costs - all staff, equipment and day to day costs in academic departments
- Academic service costs - learning facilities for students such as Library and central IT infrastructure
- Central administration and services - for example Human Resources, Finance and Admissions.
- Premises - all estates and facilities costs, including academic spaces.
- General education expenditure - for example student recruitment and scholarships.
- Staff and student facilities - for example the careers centre, counselling service and sports facilities.
The majority of our costs are staff costs reflecting the ongoing investment in creating and delivering our education and research activity. Highlights include:
- We spend significant amounts on our libraries, IT services and teaching facilities each year. In the past year we spent over £12.3m on access and participation including nearly £8.7m in the form of bursaries and other support to eligible undergraduate students.
- Due to the impacts of COVID we spent nearly £10m hiring additional space to facilitate social distancing, extra cleaning and signage. We also invested around £2m in developing our own on campus testing facility for our students and staff.
- As part of our focus on supporting student welfare during the pandemic, an additional £1m was invested in student hardship awards together with extra investment in with a new welfare and wellbeing team established alongside an out-of-hours counselling service.
- The grant to the King’s College London Student Union in both direct funding and provision of space was £7.9m this year up from £7.1m in 2019-20.
Tuition fees are the largest source of income year on year for the university, much like other institutions in the sector. Money received from tuition fees accounts for around half of all income received by King’s annually, with around 15% of our total income coming from home undergraduate fees.
Domestic tuition fees are capped at £9,250 by the Government, 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. The cost of teaching home students is partly funded by various government sources. 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 government funding for any of our international students, the higher fee charged covers the full unsubsidised cost of their education.
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 this case as the global economic climate outlook improved due to COVID-19 vaccines and policy responses from governments.
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. We also hold no investments in any firms involved in controversial weapons.