Menu

Conference business ‘boosts a university’s income by £2m’

Universities that host conferences can expect to boost their annual sales by around £2m, according to a recent survey of its members by CUBO – a UK-based association of university business officers.

Data released at CUBO’s Winter Conference, held at Edinburgh University recently, suggested a positive outlook for members, with average income levels up 11 per cent against 2018.

Residential, catering and conferencing income for 2019 hit £795.7m for the 35 institutions polled, an average of £22.7m each, compared to average tally of £20.5 million the previous year.

According to Jo Hardman, vice chair of CUBO, the findings show a very positive outlook for universities and an interesting split in terms of how that income is made up:

“Once again the report this year provides our members with an interesting picture of university services and it has been very positive to see a growth in income, especially in light of the Government’ funding review and Brexit uncertainties. An extremely valuable area of income is from Residential provision and this year, of the overall total commercial income, it accounted for 64%.

This is a key area for universities and it’s timely that we’ve just delivered the first research of its kind on under-occupancy in purpose built student accommodation, highlighting some red flag indicators for our members to try and address to prevent costly under-occupancy levels.

Looking at the further split in income, catering comes in second and accounts for an important 25% of the overall total and this included catering within residential accommodation too.”

Key findings of the research:

  • Residential income comprised 64% of the total, catering 25%, conferences 7% and sport, introduced in 2019’s results, 5%
  • Residential income of £532.3m was reported for the 2018/19 year by 30 institutions, and the average income excluding one small entry was £18.4m.
  • Total catering income from the 33 institutions reporting their activities was £208.6m in 2018/19. The average income in this area was £6.3m.
  • Conferencing income across the 26 institutions who provided data was £54.8m, an average of £2.1m per institution.

Hardman added:  “The growing area of conferencing and events – rates and activities are included –  in addition to sports revenue are evident for the first time.”

Data was provided by 53 institutions, with 31 responding to both parts of the survey, that span the whole country and range in size and provision.