How your fees are spent

The University is funded from a wide range of sources and uses this funding entirely to support its research and teaching activities.

For the University to be sustainable in the long-term, it needs to generate surpluses in order to fund the cost of major investments in the University that benefit students, e.g. the new library development, Fry building, Senate House changes and investment in digital infrastructure.

We spend the income from tuition fees in ways that we believe will best enable us to deliver a world class education and support the future prospects of all our students. The table shows how the University utilises an average taught programme tuition fee. This may vary across courses and faculties, as described further below.


Teaching and assessment
Including staff time, timetabling, providing online resources, exam set up, personal tutor time


Support staff in schools
Including administrative and technical staff


Non-staff costs of running schools
Including equipment and consumables to support teaching, academic staff training and travel and student recruitment costs


Core student support services (staff costs)
Professional services divisions staff costs


Core student support services (non-staff costs)
Including library books and in current year, quarantine packs and additional costs in relation to the impact of COVID


Widening Access to Bristol
Working with thousands of potential new students to raise awareness and aspirations to higher education,
engaging a range from primary school children to adult learners returning to education


Maintenance and building running costs
Including lighting, heating and maintenance costs


Provision of IT, equipment and buildings
Including staff IT equipment, shared computers, wifi and network costs
This does not include student accommodation which is run on a neutral basis i.e rent covers all costs in normal year of operation

Total 100%

Subject/school variations

Many factors contribute to the cost of educating an individual university student. For taught students numbers of lectures, labs and seminars across the University do vary significantly because of the different ways in which students can become proficient in their disciplinary areas. Research students have very different needs in relation to access to laboratories, libraries and collections.

Individual students also have very different needs and approaches to their studies: some make far heavier use of welfare services, others of sports facilities.

We aim to cater for the needs of all students, and we clearly cannot put an individual price on each student’s degree. There is inevitably, therefore, some level of cross-subsidy between students. But we aim to use all of our resources to support our educational and research activities as effectively and fairly as possible.

International students

The University receives no Office for Students funding for international students and so their tuition fees have to cover the full cost of their education. It is more costly for the University to recruit international students and there are some additional regulatory requirements for the University that add to our costs.

The University sets fees for international students to reflect these differences and based on the strong demand for our courses from overseas students.

Undergraduate vs postgraduate teaching

The cost of teaching postgraduate students may be higher than the cost of teaching undergraduates. Postgraduates are taught for a longer academic year than undergraduates, and staff and other costs may therefore be higher.

We base our fee levels for postgraduates on the cost of delivery of our educational provision, and in accordance with what we believe to be the value of the educational experience at Bristol.

Do tuition fees subsidise research?

Although most research is directly funded by external funders such as Research Councils, industrial partners or other government sources, the full cost of research projects is not usually covered by these grants. A lot of our expenditure covers activities, infrastructure or staff that support both teaching and research. Most of our academic staff do research and teaching, both of which add value to our students’ learning experience. Many of our facilities, including laboratories, are used for both research and teaching.

There is inevitably some cross-subsidy for research from teaching income. However, all our students benefit enormously from the world-leading academics that we employ and from the cutting-edge research that they undertake, both in terms of how it informs the curriculum and of the support that students get for their research (whether at undergraduate or postgraduate level). Undergraduates also benefit from the strong culture of postgraduate researchers at Bristol and their support of undergraduate education.

Temple Quarter Enterprise Campus (TQEC)

The investment in TQEC is a key priority in the medium term to enable our future academic, environmental and financial sustainability. The financing of this project is supported from several sources including a bank loan taken out in 2017, but also from external sources of funding such as Governmental grants and philanthropic donations.

Expectations for future funding and costs for this project as well as assessments of the risks and mitigations are happening and will continue before making final decisions to proceed with the campus build. It is still expected in the long term that TQEC will create a return that will pay off the loan and return cash to the University for further use.

University funding and expenditure

This table represents the income that the University received in 2020/21, broken down by category.

2020/21 funding sources
Tuition fees and education contracts £349.8 million
Research grants and contracts £176.4 million
Investment income and endowment donations £22.2 million
Other grant income £14.3 million
Capital grant income £27.8 million
Recurrent research grant (Research England) £53 million
Recurrent teaching grant (OfS) £30.7 million
Other income £64.7 million
Residences, catering and conferences* £37.8 million
Total £776.7 million

*The student residences are intended to be self-sustaining financially. The income generated from student rents, conferences and so on covers the cost of maintaining the estate and providing residential services, in addition to funding future investment. In financial years 2019/20 and 2020/21, occupancy was lower than usual due to the temporary periods of online learning. In those years the residences did not completely recover their own costs. 

Our expenditure

We aim to use the funds available to us to support world-changing research, high-quality research-informed teaching, a first-class student experience, a vibrant and inspirational academic community, and outstanding academic and student facilities that help to make a University of Bristol education one of the very best in the UK.

The University employs almost 8,000 staff, of which 44% are academic staff and 66% are professional and technical services staff. These members of staff teach and support nearly 28,000 registered students.

Other operating costs include a wide range of activities including the maintenance and operation of buildings and equipment, libraries, computers and student services. For example, the Careers Service offers guidance and information to our students and graduates and provides ways for students and potential employers to meet through recruitment fairs and presentations. Welfare Services, including Disability Services, Multi-faith Chaplaincy, Student Counselling and the Students’ Health Service provide personal, confidential support to help you manage your studies and get the best out of the University experience.

Our response to Covid-19 involved a number of actions to ensure that any impact could be mitigated as far as possible so as to not adversely impact the student experience. This included:

  • Digital capability (eg virtual private networks) was rapidly deployed to enable students around the world to access our digital education provision.
  • We supported online engagement by offering digital training courses for students and staff (over 10,000 students accessed the ‘Digitally Ready’ course during Welcome Week).
  • The same high-quality Study Skills support offer moved online and new training and guidance was developed to support students with their studies in a COVID-19 environment (eg guidance around online open-book exams and how to study from home).
  • We consulted with students and staff and revised our Student Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy to reflect the current context and progress made.

This table represents the expenditure that the University spent in 2020/21, broken down by category.

2020/21 expenditure
Research grants £33.3 million
Premises £25.8 million
Administration £17.5 million
Residences, catering and conferences £35.7 million
Financing costs £22.7 million
Academic and related expenditure £89.2 million
Staff costs £406.3 million
Other, including general endowment expenditure £30.4 million
Depreciation £49.7 million
Total £710.6 million


The University is a charity rather than a private or limited company, so we have no shareholders who would expect a return on investment and therefore require a profit. But we do need to make a surplus – that is, our operating income every year needs to be greater than our operating expenses for that year. This is not for anyone’s individual gain, but to enable us to generate cash reserves that are used for reinvestment in the University’s long-term academic needs – including buildings, equipment and IT facilities.

Now, more than ever, the University needs to be prepared for an uncertain future, given the impact of COVID-19, future government policies and many more issues. Any surpluses generated enable us to have sufficient cash to respond for immediate investments in a n uncertain world.

More details on these topics can be found within the latest financial statements for July 2021 (specifically the section on Value for Money).

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