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Will a Compensation Claim Bankrupt UCL? – 9 February 2021

A fair concern

A claim against UCL may seem hopeless if the university does not have the money to pay compensation. And as a student of UCL, you will probably not want to be the reason for its financial demise. Rest assured however, that this is extraordinarily unlikely.

How much money does UCL have?

In 2019, UCL’s net assets were in excess of £1.2bn, placing it amongst the top ten wealthiest universities in the UK. UCL’s website confirms their strong financial position stating: “UCL is confident its position as London’s powerhouse will be sustained and enhanced through continued investment in people and facilities.” UCL’s income rose 44% over the previous decade, to a point whereby in 2019 they had an income of £1.451bn. You can see the source for this information here – https://www.ucl.ac.uk/about/how/financial-information.

What about the impact of Covid-19 on UCL’s finances?

It may be true that, in the short term, UCL’s financial position might be worse after the pandemic. However, The Institute of Fiscal Studies, a renowned research institute specialising in public policy, have forecasted that any financial deterioration should not last long (https://www.ifs.org.uk/uploads/BN300-Will-universities-need-bailout-survive-COVID-19-crisis.pdf). The IFS estimates that the net assets per student of UK universities like UCL in 2024 could well be approximately the same, if not slightly higher, than they were in 2019.

According to the IFS, universities such as UCL, who were in a strong financial position pre-Covid-19, are well placed to shoulder the losses brought about by the pandemic. Only those universities who came into the crisis in a weak financial position are likely to struggle to recover.

It is worth noting that UCL actually increased the number of students in attendance for the 2020-2021 academic year, with no material decrease in the number of international students.

In conclusion

That the Covid-19 pandemic has brought significant financial disruption and cost to the university sector is not in question. This is no-one’s fault. The real question is, who can, and should, bear the brunt of it. Students, with little to no income, and little to no assets. Or UCL, an institution with over £1bn in assets to its name, who quite clearly can afford to cover the loss.

To us, the answer is clear.


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