Oxford uni takes a £53m dividend from its textbooks

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The Independent Online

Oxford University Press (OUP) delivered another multi-million pound dividend to the university last year, ensuring it will avoid the funding squeeze faced by large swathes of British academia.

OUP, which publishes textbooks, academic journals and English-language teaching materials, many in a digital format, is a department of the university but also its secret cash cow. It paid a £53m dividend last year, the lowest return in the last five years, during which time more than £500m has been poured into university coffers.

Nigel Portwood, OUP's chief executive, is trying to balance the funding of research and scholarships for the university with investment in expansion.

Profits last year fell 6 per cent to £115m on sales 7 per cent higher at £696m.

"We faced difficult market conditions last year, but nevertheless developed some truly innovative publishing which will help support the learning and research needs of millions of people," Mr Portwood said.

"Our ongoing investment programme, focus on new technologies, and growth in emerging markets will be important in making Oxford content available in the most appropriate formats."

The OUP was embarrassed earlier this month when it agreed to pay a £1.9m settlement after it emerged it had paid bribes to win contracts in Africa.

"The Press's management has been strengthened in the region and we have taken appropriate action in respect of those involved in this conduct," Mr Portwood added.

Many universities fear a cash crisis this year when they discover how many students have enrolled for their courses. It's the first year they have been allowed to charge higher tuition fees of up to £9,000 per annum, but applications from British students are down 9 per cent because of the increased cost.