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Financial Performance of Australian Universities in 2014

Financial Performance of Australian Universities in 2014

10 February 2016, by Prof. Frank Larkins & Assoc. Prof. Ian Marshman

The latest publicly available financial data for Australian Universities are for 2014. Universities sourced revenues of $27.15 billion and expended $25.34 billion for their higher education and independent operations. Some 60.4% of funding came from government sources, including HECS payments. The University of Melbourne had the most revenue at $2.12 billion, equivalent to $590,440 per academic staff FTE. Five universities had revenues of more than $1.6 billion. These five highest revenue earners had a combined income that was more than the total revenues for the 22 smallest universities.

The level of government support for teaching and learning (T&L) through Commonwealth Grants Schemes (CGS) and HECS payments vary from 88% for Western Sydney of all identified T&L income to 40% for Melbourne, with the system average being 67%. When only CGS funding for T&L is considered as the long term contribution by government, since HECS contributions are expected to be repaid, the range decreases from 56% for Tasmania to 26% for Melbourne, with the system average being 39%. For many universities these estimates of government contributions are likely to be upper limits, because of the use of other revenue streams to support T&L activities.

The 2014 university revenues, expressed as dollars per student EFTSL unit, highlight that all the Go8 universities and a small number of other universities have revenues significantly above the system average of $27,780 per EFTSL. ANU with 2014 revenue normalised as $63,922 per EFTSL was well ahead of all other universities, principally because of special government allocations.

The revenue outcomes when expressed on a per academic FTE basis are very different to the outcome expressed on a student EFTSL basis. Predominantly those institutions with a more limited research portfolio generate the highest level of funding. The research focus of the Go8 institutions appears to be diminishing their relative financial standing on a FTE basis as they increase overall research staff numbers and cross-subsidise research activities.

Australian universities expended 57.9% of their outlays on employee benefits. On a system-wide basis universities expended $138,700 per FTE on academic benefits and $102,227 per FTE on non-academic benefits in 2014. Four of the Go8 universities expended less than the national average on academic benefits per FTE, but only two, Adelaide and Melbourne, reported less than the national average for non-academic benefits. The staff profiles of some Go8 universities are different from the national norm because of their research intensive nature and the scale of independent operations. All universities expended more per FTE on academic benefits than on non-academic benefits. Only two Australian Universities, UNSW and Queensland, employed more academic staff than non-academic staff. Overall universities employed 81 academic FTE for every 100 non-academic FTE in 2014.

Read full paper (pdf).

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