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Report of the Secretary to the Delegates

Report of the Secretary to the Delegates

The Press saw improved trading conditions in many of its main markets and a strong competitive performance right across its business in 2016/17. Turnover was £847.4m, growth of 3.3% on a like-for-like basis at constant exchange rates (and 11% including exchange rate effects), with a return to double-digit growth in emerging markets.

Nigel Portwood,
Secretary to the
Delegates and Chief Executive,
Oxford University Press

OUP’s academic division achieved a 2.4% turnover increase, with another strong year of learned society acquisitions in journals and a return to growth in our academic books business. Our turnover in the US and North American Higher Education markets grew, as it did in Dictionaries, where we saw exceptional licensing deals and an uplift in advertising revenue. The Press made two modest acquisitions during the year―Lyceum, a social work publisher, and Hinshaw, a music publisher that held the US rights for John Rutter’s music.

In our education divisions, overall turnover grew 3.7%, with both the UK and Australia secondary school businesses showing strong performances during new curriculum introductions. OUP’s businesses in China, Pakistan, and India all achieved high growth rates and in South Africa, a good underlying school’s sales increase was boosted further by exceptional orders from two provinces.  Our ELT businesses in Argentina, Mexico, Vietnam, and the CAMENA region all grew at a good rate, but across Europe we generally saw reduced sales, specifically in Spain, Italy, and Poland―curriculum reform cycles playing a strong role in influencing these outcomes.

The Press made good progress in pursuit of its mission and against its strategic objectives. We continued to extend the University’s global reach and impact by publishing across our three core markets of Research, Education, and the Learning of English. Within those markets our main priorities are realizing the potential of digital technology, and securing continued growth in emerging markets. While our business is ‘content-led’, creating value primarily through the provision of high-quality resources to schools and academic institutions across the world, we increasingly supplement and strengthen that proposition by adding a range of related services. Our activities everywhere draw upon the Press’s distinctive capabilities: being part of ‘Oxford’ and what that stands for, not least the highest levels of integrity and ethical behaviour; a deep understanding of how education, teaching, and research is best designed to have greatest impact; and the ability to reach many markets at a local level.




Digital transition is of course impacting all aspects of publishing. Improving our technology and digital capabilities has therefore been an important objective for us over many years.  We adopt several different approaches within our overall technology strategy: in-house developments, which we then adapt for different markets; strategic partnerships with suppliers working on core projects and services; relationship-building with start-ups, including our work with Emerge Education; and through acquisition.  To increase the efficiency and agility of our technology function we created a single global technology organization and transferred responsibility for some technology support services to Cognizant during the year. Another important development was the Press’s launch of a new academic platform, from Silverchair, which will host all of our academic online content. Our journals content went live on the platform in January 2017.

The Press’s surplus from trading before interest, funded projects, minority interests, and taxation was £124m, up 24% on the prior year on a headline basis, and 16% at constant exchange rates. The Press’s financial transfer to the wider University was £40m in 2016/17. As usual, this will support a range of research, scholarship, and educational activities across the University, including the John Fell Fund and the Clarendon Scholarships.

 


Our activities everywhere draw upon the Press’s distinctive capabilities: being part of ‘Oxford’ and what that stands for, not least the highest levels of integrity and ethical behaviour; a deep understanding of how education, teaching, and research is best designed to have greatest impact; and the ability to reach many markets at a local level.


We trained 356,000 teachers, 90,000 more than the previous year. Our resources are now sold in 190 countries and in 102 languages, an increase of five languages since last year.
 

As a mission-based organization, the Press measures its success in a variety of ways beyond just financial performance. In the rest of this report we highlight some of our publishing successes of the year but I would like to mention here a few statistics that demonstrate other achievements in support of our education and scholarly objectives. We won 72 of the major scholarly awards that we track, up slightly on the previous year. We secured a record 988 translation deals in 45 languages, including our first translation into Dari, a version of Farsi spoken in Afghanistan. Online usage of our journals and other online products rose by 12% and 9% respectively. We trained 356,000 teachers, 90,000 more than the previous year. Our resources are now sold in 190 countries and in 102 languages, an increase of five languages since last year. During the year we launched Oxford Impact, which is a method for evaluating the impact of our educational products and services so that school leaders, teachers, and parents can be sure that our resources make a positive difference to educational outcomes. In the last year we launched ten impact studies, with many more planned―the results of which we will look forward to sharing with our customers in due course.

Although the final results were strong, we had begun the year knowing that trading conditions were difficult and uncertain and our growth expectations in certain markets had been reduced. We therefore took action to reduce our costs in some markets and to adapt some of our ways of working to ensure that we were meeting market needs and allocating resources to the right opportunities. Although sometimes difficult, this action seems to have paid off. Our success in the year was fundamentally the result of the capability and commitment of our more than 6,000 employees around the world.

Looking ahead, we are encouraged by the Press’s performance in 2016/17 but we are not complacent. The publishing market challenges that I have written about in previous Annual Reports remain, and we will have to ensure that we continue to respond and adapt to them in order to be successful. To that end, we intend to pursue several foundational projects that will simplify our support systems and processes, to improve efficiency and increase flexibility, so that we can better meet customers’ needs and continue to innovate successfully. Our clear strategy, competitiveness, and diversity give us some advantages in navigating changes in market conditions, and as long as we remain focused on serving our customers―the millions of teachers, students, and researchers who value and trust our resources―then we believe that we will continue to be successful in fulfilling and sustaining our educational and scholarly objectives in the future.