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Behind the balance sheets: how will your university tuition fees be spent?

Yale University’s latest financial report shows that income from students – including tuition fees, accommodation and other charges – accounted for only 8.6% of the university’s total operating revenue in the 2010-11 academic year.

Other major sources of funding for universities are governments, businesses and non-profit organizations, income from investments, and private donors such as alumni (past students).

University spending on staff salaries and benefits

Many universities publish details of their income and expenditure in an annual report, but they rarely use the same categories, so direct comparison is tricky.

However, one clear pattern is that for most universities, the largest chunk of spending is dedicated to staff salaries and benefits (such as child care, health insurance and pensions).
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Fewer applications for UK universities

Two days ago, the University and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas) revealed the details of the drop in university application in the United Kingdom (UK) for 2012 tuition fees months after the government announced that universities would be able to charge up to £9,000 for tuition fees. Students had from September 2011 until 30th June 2012 to apply for undergraduate studies in the UK. Read more

Diverse Top 500 shows benefits of sustained investment

by John O’Leary

With more countries than ever represented, this year’s rankings reflect global investment in higher education.

When Cambridge topped the QS World University Rankings® for the first time last year, some commentators thought it a one-off interruption to Harvard’s global supremacy. But Cambridge shows today that its pre-eminence was no fluke by retaining the leadership in the 2011 rankings.

Harvard has closed the gap fractionally on Cambridge, but the decline in staffing levels that cost it top place in 2010 has not been reversed. Although it dominated the series of subject rankings published by QS in recent months, it remains second in the world overall.
Almost 3,000 institutions were included in the research that produced the latest rankings and a record 712 feature in the results. The outcome shows the increasingly competitive nature of global higher education, with 32 countries represented in the top 200, three more than last year.
While the United States remains the superpower of the university world, occupying 13 of the top 20 places and more than 50 of the top 200, the leading universities of Europe and Asia are making up ground. The United Kingdom has cemented its place as the nearest challenger, taking the other seven places in the top 20, including four of the top ten.
The latest rankings demonstrate the link between sustained investment and academic strength. They deliberately to do not measure institutional wealth, but the results show the benefits of sharply increased funding in several countries and the impact of cuts elsewhere. China, for example, which has seen the world’s biggest investment programme in higher education over the past decade, has more universities in the ranking than ever before. Nearly all of them have improved their positions since 2010.
Several of the German universities selected for extra funding under the government’s Excellence Initiative have also risen in the rankings. In the US, however, where budget cuts and falls in endowment have led to staffing reductions in state and private universities, the result has been an overall decline in ranking positions. While most of the top performers have maintained or even improved their placings, some of those outside the top 50 have been overtaken. Read more

Record survey responses fuel QS World University Rankings 2011/2012

Tomorrow sees our latest results emerge on This year we have had the good fortune to attract record survey responses both of Academics and Employers. Over the 33,000 academics and over 16,000 employers have contributed their views to form this year’s response base. More detail on the survey responses is available here:

Academic Survey Response

Employer Survey Response

Fact files have been delivered this year with more detail than ever and international media are poised to publish and reflect on the results in the morning. You will notice something different about the presentation of our tables this year – and that is the emphasis on fees. Wherever we have been able to track down data we are publishing average undergraduate and postgraduate, domestic and international fees this year – giving prospective international students – particulalry those in countries where domestic fees are escalating – an invaluable resource to help make the best decisions.

More analysis here over the next few days.

HE News Brief 1.8.11

by Abby Chau

  • INTERNATIONAL: Webometrics has just launched its new results, plus a few tweaks in its methodology
  • UK: Competition between institutions for the best-performing students is raising eyebrows
  • BULGARIA: Institutions have won rights to set fees for Masters programmes and to audit foreign diplomas
  • INTERNATIONAL: The rankings debate continues with Ellen Hazelkorn, Reaganomics, and the notion of world-class
  • INTERNATIONAL: QS recently released its Subject Rankings in the Social Sciences Read more

Online tool allows students to identify highest and lowest priced US institutions

By Mansoor Iqbal, Education Writer

The US Department of Education has made a new online tool available with which students can identify the most expensive and the cheapest colleges in the country. The College Affordability and Transparency Centre allows users to generate reports showing the institutions which charge the highest and lowest tuition fees, and the ones with the highest and lowest net prices – the average cost of attendance (this is tuition plus other fees, books and supplies, and room and board), taking into account grants and scholarship aid.

The tool covers nine sectors in total, allowing separate reports to be generated for public, private not-for-profit, and private for-profit four-year, two-year and less-than-two-year institutions. The most expensive 5% and the cheapest 10% are covered.

If only tuition fees are considered, the most expensive three public schools are Pennsylvania State University – Main Campus, the University of Pittsburgh – Pittsburgh Campus, and the University of Vermont, which charge $14,416, $14,154 and $13,554 respectively. The most expensive when other costs and aid are taken into account are the University of Texas Health Center at San Antonio, Saint Mary’s College of Maryland and Rowan University – $24,192, $23,902, and $21,468. Read more

Large number of English and Welsh Universities given go-ahead to charge domestic and EU students fees of £9,000

By Mansoor Iqbal, Education Writer

It has been confirmed that a number of universities in England will be allowed to raise their tuition fees for domestic undergraduates to the maximum permitted amount of £9,000. 47 out of 123 universities will be charging the maximum fee across the board, with just over 80 charging it for some of their courses.

Initial proposals to raise tuition fees allowed universities to raise their fees to £6,000, which would increase to £9,000 in ‘exceptional circumstances’. However, the only requirement universities had to meet in order to charge this amount was that they produced plans to widen participation with which Offa (the Office for Fair Access) was satisfied – the result was tidal waves of universities proposing fees significantly higher than £6,000.

Offa has not rejected the proposed fees levels of any universities, indicating that it is satisfied with the access agreements made by all institutions, for which it has been criticized by some parties.  Universities that do not successfully widen participation after the higher fees are introduced, however, will be penalized. It should be noted that Offa only had the power to approve or reject access agreements, not to set the fees.

Average fees are £8,393, or £8,161 when fee waivers – a key facet of most universities’ plans to widen access – are introduced to the equation. A small number of institutions’ average fees remain at £9,000, even after access schemes are taken into account, due to opting for bursaries and other forms of financial support rather than fee waivers. Read more

UK universities to compete for domestic student places

by Mansoor Iqbal

A long-awaited white paper, detailing the vision of David Willetts, the UK’s minister for Universities and Science, for the future of the country’s universities has been unveiled to the public.

One of its central tenets is the idea of increased competition between universities for student places, an idea which has not escaped the eye of the higher education commentariat. Private providers – which are not subject to caps on numbers – will also be invited to compete for these students.

A university must meet one of two conditions before they are permitted to claim a higher share of students: either by offering average domestic fees of under £7,500 (the amount originally anticipated by the UK’s government when raising the threshold to £9,000) or by taking on students who achieve grades of AAB or higher in their A-Level examinations.

It is estimated that there will be around 65,000 prospective undergraduates in the latter category, and an estimated 20,000 places will be offered to universities who meet the former criterion. This means that the total numbers of students universities must compete for is equivalent to around a quarter of the annual uptake of domestic undergraduates (competition on price will not apply to Scottish universities, which are free for Scottish students).

These 85,000 or so places are not, strictly speaking, extra places, as they will be removed from universities’ individual allocations of students. The total number of undergraduates will stay at much the same level. It has been argued that this number is too small, leading to students struggling to get onto oversubscribed courses.

Experts have predicted that non-elite universities who have chosen to charge the top fees will lose out on numbers as a result of these plans. High achieving students will certainly take advantage of extra places that the more prestigious universities will be able to create, and thus far lower fees have been the preserve of newer, more technical establishments. Universities which expand their numbers will also receive extra funding accordingly. Read more