University of Sydney records $298.5 million surplus

In an email announcing the University’s financial results, Vice-Chancellor Mark Scott did not state the surplus amount, saying instead that “the University’s parent operating result for 2022 was $749.6 million lower” than in 2021.

The University of Sydney has told staff today that it has recorded a surplus of $298.5 million in 2022. Excluding USyd’s 2021 surplus of $1.04 billion, the surplus is the University’s largest in almost 20 years.

In an all-staff email, Vice-Chancellor Mark Scott said “as we expected, our 2022 financial statement has recorded an operating result that is significantly down on 2021’s ‘one off’ result.” 

The University recorded an even higher “underlying margin” of $381.5 million. 

The parent operating result means USyd earned $298.5 million more in revenue than it lost in expenses in 2022. The $381.5 million underlying margin excludes one-offs (such as asset sales) and “tied” funds — this typically includes research grants and donations tied to a specific purpose, and the University’s investments — when making that calculation. 

Scott said that the University’s financial performance was lower in 2022 than in 2021 because “the compulsory acquisition of the University’s lands in 2021 were reversed”. The discontinuation of the federal government’s Research Support Program and lower investment income were also factors, according to Scott.

“While this result still provides us with financial sustainability, there is no question that we continue to navigate the challenges facing a volatile higher education sector,” Scott told staff.

“All universities are grappling with rising costs, and while we are not immune to inflationary pressure, we are fortunate to be able to reinvest our surplus to support our core activities of teaching and research.  

“We know that our most important asset is our staff, and I’d like to reiterate our commitment to providing the best overall conditions, including the highest salaries in the sector, and expanding our continuing academic workforce.”

The University has offered staff a real-pay cut in ongoing enterprise negotiations and has committed to expanding the amount of staff working in exploitative Education Focussed academic roles by 440%.

In its 2021 Annual Report, the University introduced the category of “underlying margin excluding non-recurring items”, which was approximately $550 million less than its parent figure. It argued at the time that it was a more appropriate means of calculating its financial performance than the parent operating margin.

Nick Riemer, President of the National Tertiary Education Union’s USyd Branch, told Honi “This is a result that most universities would give their eye teeth for. Those hundreds of millions of dollars should be spent on staff salary and preventing overwork.

“This underlines once again that there’s simply no financial justification for management not making staff a better salary offer, or for rejecting the original proposals the NTEU made for lowering teaching load for Education-focused staff.”

This year’s surplus was significantly larger than the University’s results in 2020 ($31 million), 2019 ($8.9 million) and 2018 ($27 million), with the preceding years similarly low.

Scott did not state the parent operating surplus in his email, saying instead that “the University’s parent operating result for 2022 was $749.6 million lower than … in 2021.” 

He prefaced every mention of the University’s $1.04 billion 2021 surplus with the words “one-off”.

For more on the different types of surplus and analysis of the University’s 2021 financial results, click here.

This article has been ammended to include data visualisation and comment by Nick Riemer.

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