University of Northampton has highest debt to income ratio in the UK

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Union leaders have said they are worried that the University of Northampton is loaning more money than almost any uni in the country while being one of the lowest investors in staff.

University and College Union (UCU) Northants has compiled figures showing that the town’s uni has very high levels of debt, very high levels of interest to be paid but low expenditure on staff.

Branch Chair Nick Cartwright said: “We’re concerned about the level of indebtedness and what that means for the university of Northampton’s financial health, particularly while staff are at risk of redundancy and there is an unresolved pay gap.

“It’s scary how much money is being loaned. It seems there’s money there to be spent, but they are not spending it on staff.”

For the percentage of income spent on staff costs, the University of Northampton is near the bottom of the league, with 90 per cent of institutions paying more.  Only 15 institutions spend a smaller proportion of their income on staff. 

Added to that, academic staff at the University of Northampton earn, on average, £40,561 per year, which puts it in the lowest quartile for academic staff pay.

However, in absolute terms, the University of Northampton’s borrowing of £233 million is eighth highest in the UK.

And, as a percentage of income (184 per cent), it is by some distance top of the list with borrowing at levels almost double that of its nearest contender, Queen Margaret University.

However, UCU Northants said the fact the university’s loan to build Waterside Campus was backed by treasury bonds did not prove there was no risk.

Mr Cartwright said: “All the bonds means is that people will get their money back, it doesn’t mean the university has to succeed.

“In fact the white paper on the subject says that universities can succeed on their own but they can also fail just as easily.”

Deborah Mattock, director of marketing at the University of Northampton, said the amount of borrowing was so far ahead of any other uni because it the only one developing a new campus in this way.

She said: “The development has the full backing of Her Majesty’s Treasury, guaranteed borrowing up to £292 million for Waterside Campus.

“The financial strategy adopted to develop the campus naturally comes with borrowing and interest terms unlike other universities in the UK at this time, and the campus development represents a huge commitment to our staff, students and the local community.”

Mrs Mattock added that the uni considers investment in staff to be more than just the pay they receive.

She said: “We fully support and encourage staff to access a wide range of benefits: including professional development, health and wellbeing services, generous annual leave entitlement and very favourable terms and conditions.”