The College recognised a total income of £1,026.4 million in 2019–20. This is down 4.4% on last year, primarily because of a drop in donations and endowments following the outbreak of COVID-19.

2019–20 Income by source (£ million)

This chart shows Imperial’s total income and the different sources of our income in pounds. The total income for the year 2019–20 is £1,024.6 million.


Income from education

Tuition fees and education contracts income saw an 7.8% increase compared to 2018–19, finishing the year at £337.7 million. These now constitute one third of our total income compared to a quarter in 2015–16. This is a higher proportion than was expected as research grants and contracts and other income (including donations and endowments) were £20.3 million and £47.9 million lower than  the prior year respectively.

We remain mindful of the exposure in placing so much reliance on the income generated from tuition fees and are committed to delivering on our income diversification when the operating context is more favourable.

In 2019–20 postgraduate enrolments increased by 2.8%. The growth rate in postgraduate numbers has been double that of undergraduates over the last five years (5.5% annualised vs. 2.9% annualised).

In 2019–20, this has levelled off, with both student types growing at around 4% compared to the prior year. Early 2020–21 figures suggest that this is not a trend and postgraduate student growth has picked up again.

The increase in student numbers is mostly concentrated amongst overseas students, whose numbers have been growing over the last five years at over twice the rate of both home and EU students (6.9% annualised vs. 2.7% annualised). They now represent 38.2% of our total student population and 67.1% of our tuition fee income.

This is a conscious strategy, as we look to attract the world’s best students whilst covering the shortfall in the funding we receive to conduct our research and teach UK undergraduates. Although over 120 countries are represented by our overseas population, those from China constitute 44.5% of overseas students and 17.0% of the overall student number.

Income from Funding Council grants

Grants from our Funding Councils (Office for Students and UK Research and Innovation) were £154.3 million in 2019–20, slightly down on the prior year.

A larger reduction had been anticipated as the previous year included a one-off £10.8 million capital grant towards the Sir Michael Uren Hub. This planned reduction was offset by a £9.2 million increase in our Research Grant mainly due to the unexpected increase of the budget envelope of UKRI and £5.8 million of accelerated funding as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The research grant and contract income booked in 2019–20 was £347.7 million, down 5.5% compared to the prior year. This includes capital and in-kind funding, which can be volatile; stripping this out gives an underlying decline of 3.3%.

A fall in the rate of expenditure for non-staff costs has driven this decline. During the final third of the year, staff costs remained steady as research continued  while there was a College-wide transition to remote working.

Income from research

The College had an outstanding year in terms of winning new research awards, with the £426 million secured being £80 million higher than the prior year and £5 million higher than the previous record year in 2017–18. Charity-funded research increased to £109 million compared to an average of £92 million over the previous three years, with £34 million secured from the Gates Foundation for Target Malaria work.

The largest increase was from UKRI, with the £130 million secured £22 million higher than the previous five-year average. There was a reduction in the overall total award amount received from industrial partners, with the £37 million secured around £18 million lower than the previous five-year average.

This is in part due to delays in negotiations as a result of COVID-19, with a number of new awards being secured in 2020–21. We secured research awards from a range of funders with regards to our COVID-19 response. Our Department of Infectious Disease has secured over £25 million of awards to lead the development of the Imperial COVID-19 vaccine, which entered clinical trials in June 2020. We have also secured funding from the UK government’s Rapid Response Initiative (REACT), which is supporting several projects from the usability and feasibility of widespread home self-testing, to improving the COVID-19 forecasts by accounting for seasonality and environmental responses.

There is often a lag between winning research awards and mobilising the research project. The awards won in a given year are spent over the life of the project (typically three to five years) and the income in the financial statements is matched to this spend in most cases. Overall research grants and contracts income was down £20.3 million (5.5%) this year. This was driven by lower non-staff spend detailed in the expenditure section below.

Donations, Endowments and Other income

Donations and Endowment income recognised in 2019–20 was £28.3 million, £48.3 million lower than the 2018–19 amount, which included a leadership capital donation to support the fundraising campaign for the School of Public Health.

The natural volatility of this kind of income was highlighted during the COVID-19 outbreak. As the pandemic led to the interruption of ongoing infrastructure work, the recognition of further pledges to fund the School of Public Health have been delayed. Additionally, research donations in 2019–20 dropped to £16.0 million, almost two-thirds of the amount recognised in the prior year. However, the College has remained resourceful during this time, setting up a COVID-19 Response Fund.

This enables donors to contribute to a pooled  fund, giving College the flexibility to support high-impact projects. Combined with an initial contribution of £1.0 million from the President’s Excellence Fund, over £2.2 million has been raised for this so far. Income was also successfully generated from philanthropic donations, which increased in 2019–20, despite the pandemic. During the year, £41.3 million was secured, an increase of £10.7 million compared to the prior year. These individual donations were all under £10 million. These will be recognised in future years as the performance conditions are met.

Other income overall remained in line with the prior year, with a slight increase of £0.4 million to £152.5 million. This is partly because the £7.8 million ‘one-off’ royalty income realised on sale of technology transfer spinout Process System Enterprise, a leading supplier of Advanced Process Modelling software and services.

This income offset the fall in income from residences, catering and conferences. Students were not charged for the third term’s hall accommodation if they decided to vacate in advance, as around 90% of our undergraduates did. Catering sales have been minimal since the last outlet closed for lockdown in March and our vacation and events activity was halted prior to  what would usually have been the busiest part of the year.

The College elected to utilise the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, reflecting the downturn in activity across campus. This related primarily to employees in student-facing roles, resulting in a claim of £3.5 million for the  year. This is recognised as part of Other Income,  and offsets some of our staff costs.

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