Oxford colleges have published their accounts for the financial year, which reveal decreasing reliance on the income from investment.

The total income for the financial year ending in July 2009 was £281 million and overall the colleges had a surplus of £6 million. However, college endowments decreased by 7% amounting to £2.28bn.

The falling endowments have been a cause for concern. Clifford Webb, Merton’s finance bursar commented on the accounts, “The problem is reflected more in investment income (which is much lower last year and this year, for example lower dividends and interest rates), which has certainly made a dent in college incomes.

“The fall in endowment values was painful”

“Going forward the amount of money given to colleges by the government is not enough by far to cover teaching costs and this will get progressively worse in the next few years because teaching funds are being cut. But you can’t yet see the impact in last year’s figures.”

Other figures show that publicly funded tuition and research income fell by 0.7%, but overall academic income increased by 7.8%. The University claims income was “boosted by growth in fees from overseas students.”

Staff costs account for half of college expenditure, and these rose by 8.1% last year, which highlights Oxford’s “above-inflation national pay awards for academic staff and higher pension contribution rates,” according to a University press release.

“Teaching funds are being cut”

Although colleges receive public funding from the University to support academic activities, this accounts for less than half their income.

Colleges must rely on the return on endowments, fundraising and surpluses from conferences during the vacations. Conferences brought in £10 million for colleges across the University this year.

There is also a large discrepancy in the performance of colleges. University College achieved a surplus of £1,650,000, compared with Worcester’s deficit of -£1,268,000. Many of the University’s richest colleges also recorded deficits.

Univ recorded a surplus of £854,000 the year before and their huge surplus this year was partly due to disposal of fixed assets.

The University reports that collectively colleges have “a small surplus at the operating level” despite a 7% decline in endowments.

Oxford’s richest colleges, St John’s and Christ Church, also reported deficits this year. St John’s total funds stand at over £331 million, and their deficit was -£52,000. Christ Church is worth £268 million but had a deficit of -£371,000, despite recording a surplus of £995,000 the year before.

New College lost -£602,000 this year. One New college student, who wished to remain anonymous, told Cherwell, “We’re all quite shocked to hear that the College is in this sort of state. Our JCR has one of the largest budgets in Oxford, so the impact of the overall problems hasn’t been felt much by current undergraduates – but they’re starting make staff cutbacks now, which is a shame.

“What’s most interesting is that part of the problem is our links with New College School. Most people here didn’t realise that the School and the College share accounts, and it has angered a lot of people that the prep school’s problems could have an impact on us, even though we have basically nothing to do with them.”

Other colleges reporting losses include Brasenose, Corpus Christi, Hertford, St. Hilda’s (though they recorded a deficit of only -£3000) and Wadham.

Wadham lost -£205,000 this year. One third year Wadhamite told Cherwell she was not surprised by the news. “We’ve noticed prices in the bar go up and they’re currently doing up rooms in college, meaning undergraduates can’t stay there.”

Colleges with very healthy accounts include Balliol, who recorded a surplus of £441,000, Jesus with £446,000, Lincoln with £566,000, Merton with £650,000 and Somerville, who reported a surplus of £794,000.

Exeter recorded an impressive surplus of £2,026,000 but this was only achieved after the disposal of fixed assets. The year before Exeter had a deficit of -£244,000.

Overall Oxford did receive more donations this year, which helped colleges through dismal financial conditions. Donations accounted for £53 million of endowments and colleges received £18 million in gifts and £8 million in capital gifts.

Frances Lannon, Principal of Lady Margaret Hall and Chairman of the Conference of Colleges, said of the accounts, “The fall in endowment values, though painful, was considerably less than that experienced by some of our peers. Many colleges are fortunate to have, serving on their investment committees, Old Members who have highly successful careers in fund management. This has undoubtedly helped us weather the storm.”