University spends over £4.8 million on advertising since 2014


Between July 2014 and January 2020, Durham University spent £4,789,684 on advertising and marketing, an average of nearly £900,000 per annum.

This information was revealed to Palatinate through a Freedom of Information request, which covered both above the line advertising, as well as the budget for the marketing and communications team.

In addition to the money spent on advertising, the University’s marketing and communications office cost an additional £1,820,113, a figure that excludes staff salaries.

“We continually review our marketing plans”

Professor Claire O’Malley

This second figure includes £618,010 on professional fees and consultancy and a further £609,341 on printing.

Between July 2014 and 2019, the budget for advertising and marketing has increased by 22%.

A request for a more detailed breakdown of the advertising and marketing budget was rejected by the University’s Information Governance unit, because the University does not hold marketing and advertising data to this level of detail.

The spending on advertising represents only a small proportion of the University’s annual budget. 

In 2019, the University’s total operating expenditure, excluding pension adjustments, increased to £362 million, on an income of £381 million.

The major source of the University’s income is tuition fees and education fees, which made up 54.9% of their income in 2019. The other major sources are funding council grants, research grants and contracts, as well as donations and endowments. 

In terms of spending, over 56% of the University’s expenditure went on staff costs, with the rest covering other operational expenses and 6.6% covering a depreciation of assets.

“They prioritise projecting an image over the value that we generate.”

Durham Casuals

When compared to other Universities, Durham’s spending on advertising and marketing looks less significant. For example, according to The Guardian, between 2017-18, the University of Central Lancashire spent £3.4m on marketing, while the University of the West of England spent £3m.

Nonetheless, some have argued that increased spending on advertising and marketing represents an unhealthy trajectory for higher education.

In response to the findings, Durham Casuals, a group which represents academics against precarious employment at the University, said: “That senior management at Durham University are trying to cut our staffing budget to save costs while spending vast sums on advertising suggests that they prioritise projecting an image over the value that we generate. 

“This is felt particularly acutely at a time when staffing budgets are being cut and casual staff are being made redundant in several departments. This demonstrates that the University’s priority is getting students to come to Durham rather than giving them the best education by investing in keeping experienced staff.”

Professor Claire O’Malley, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Global), Durham University, said: “Like all universities, Durham University runs international marketing campaigns to recruit the very best students and staff and to promote Durham’s global reputation for education, research and wider student experience to prospective students and employers of our graduates.

“Marketing activities are delivered in different ways across the University and the amount stated relates to all marketing and advertising activities over a period of six years.

“We continually review our marketing plans to ensure their effectiveness and we allocate our budgets accordingly.”

Image: Valentina Perzolla via Creative Commons

One thought on “University spends over £4.8 million on advertising since 2014

  • These are honestly not vast sums when compared to other parts of the sector. Quite the opposite, in fact.

    Taken year on year, it’s less than the Prime Minster has just spent to decorate an aeroplane (notwithstanding however ill-judged you think that might be).


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