In the light of the decision to reconsider B Henry’s, I want to take this opportunity to clarify some financial issues to the student body – so listen up, this is important.
Universities are funded through a number of income streams for academic purposes: these help to pay for academic buildings, salaries, library facilities, IT, research equipment etc. What is NOT funded is residences and catering. Government feels that this is a commercial endeavour, to be run as such. So we have a Residences and Catering account shown separately in our end-of-year audit.
Thus it is a business. The clue is in the name – ‘Commercial’ Services. It has to break even because we are not allowed to subsidise it from teaching and research accounts (and anyway, what would you lot say if we did and the quality of your academic experience fell as a result?). If we are to get on top of maintenance and refurbishment, it has to stay in profit.
I’ve seen a website comment arguing that the essence of a college is its communal dining and its bar. Even to me this seems dated – as an undergraduate (c1902), I chose to cook for myself and to drink in the pub rather than the college bar. Substantial numbers now prefer to buy alcohol cheaply in supermarkets other than our own dear Costcutter and drink it in college kitchens.
Yes, we could underwrite failing enterprises from other parts of the Catering and Residences account. We could charge more for lunchtime sandwiches (you’d go to Brown’s) or we could hike the rents (you’d be demented with rage). Or we could aim for break-even and never have money for refurbishment. The result of any of these measures would perpetuate the problem, and would just shift it from one area to another.
To paraphrase somebody else’s slogan – your Commercial Services: Your profit. Every pound you spend gets reinvested in the Residences and Catering Account.
The economics are stark and simple. Spend your leisure pound in Commercial Services outlets and the profit goes back into providing the best service we can, including the retention of college bars. Spend it in a YUSU outlet, and the benefit goes back to those aspects of university life that they support – societies, welfare and representation. Spend it on a college event and it goes back to the college’s efforts to make your life better. Spend it in Morrisons and you get a bigger better Morrisons. Spend it in Ziggy’s and Ziggy’s pockets the profit. You choose.
We’ll look long and hard at the B Henry’s position, and we’ll look more deeply at wider issues than I could address here, but don’t forget – your pound, your profit. Where there’s a loss, something has to give.