In 2017/8 the Press nearly matched the strong trading performance of the prior year, despite some challenging and unexpected market conditions in its schools publishing businesses. Group turnover was £840.1m (reported under FRS 102 accounting standard), down 0.9 per cent in both headline terms and at constant exchange rates. The Press’s breadth and diversity has, as in many previous years, reduced the effects of divergent performances at market and divisional levels.
Report of the Secretary to the Delegates
OUP’s academic division had a very strong year, with the Journals business continuing to be a key source of turnover growth. Most other areas of the academic portfolio—including academic books, higher education, and dictionaries—also grew their revenues. Digital products and services account for more than half of academic’s overall revenue, and continued investment in technology and digital innovation are central to current and future plans—from investing in marketing technology to experimenting with new online services. We completed an acquisition early in the year, the US-based HE publisher Sinauer, which has brought a range of high-quality biology, neuroscience, and psychology titles to OUP.
It was a much more difficult year for our education divisions. There were far fewer curriculum reform opportunities than in recent years, which impacted, for instance, the Press’s Spanish, Malaysian, UK, and Hong Kong schools businesses. Governments altered education policies and purchasing decisions in a number of countries―for example, in India where there was increasing pressure on schools to use government produced materials. Despite these difficulties, the Press achieved some positive results. We have maintained our position as the UK’s top schools publisher, though spending in that market reduced in the year. In Kenya, our results were boosted by the government-led Secondary Education Quality Improvement Project, which aims to provide each Kenyan schoolchild with a textbook for six core subjects.
During the year, the Press materially increased its investment in technology projects both to transform our technical infrastructure and to enable us to develop and launch new products for customers.
The Press’s overall strategic priorities were maintained. Across the three global publishing markets that we serve—Research, the Learning of English, and Education (Schools and Higher Education)—we have four common objectives: a focus on growth in emerging markets, in particular those where the Press is already well placed; sustaining high levels of investment in technology in order to compete within a rapidly evolving digital environment; demonstrating evidence of positive impact for our customers and users from their use of our materials and services; and a continued focus on efficiency in order to remain competitive.
During the year, the Press materially increased its investment in technology projects both to transform our technical infrastructure and to enable us to develop and launch new products for customers. We expect the level of investment to continue to increase in future years.
There are many examples of our newest digital publishing ventures within this report. One is the migration of academic content to a new platform, starting with the Press’s 400+ scholarly journals. As a result of this, we have seen a ten per cent increase in journal site visits, and an 18 per cent increase in downloads of journal articles. Our work to migrate more of our academic content continues this year.
Another is Oxford Global Languages (OGL)—a major initiative from Oxford Dictionaries which aims to build lexical resources for 100 of the world’s languages and make them available online. Launched in 2014, we added more languages to the site during the year, including Tamil, Gujarati, Tajik, isiXhosa, and Tok Pisin. OGL records how living languages, including their variants and dialects, are used today, and the service is clearly growing in popularity, with visits to the site increasing by 500 per cent during the year, with particularly strong growth in South East Asia and India.
We are piloting and launching various educational digital and blended services across the Asia Pacific region, including a cloud-based e-learning platform in Hong Kong called Oxford iSolution, and a standardized test for assessment in India schools called Oxford STAR. We are also exploring the use of augmented reality with some of our school textbooks in Australia.
Alongside the continuing drive to develop content of the highest academic quality, each year we extend our activities into supporting educational and research outcomes more broadly. National governments and international organizations such as the OECD are placing greater emphasis on teacher training and professional development Last year, we trained more than 440,000 teachers, up more than 20 per cent on the previous year—primarily in face-to-face events across multiple countries, and we are developing online training opportunities in some countries, such as India.
In Kenya, our results were boosted by the government-led Secondary Education Quality Improvement Project, which aims to provide each Kenyan schoolchild with a textbook for six core subjects.
The Press’s surplus from trading before interest, funded projects, minority interests, and taxation was £114.9m (reported under FRS 102 accounting standard) which is down 7.3 per cent on the prior year, and down 1.5 per cent on a like-for-like basis at constant exchange rates. This was in line with budget and expectations, allowing for increased investment in technology.
The Press makes a financial transfer to the wider University over and above the regular annual transfer when resources allow, and the total transfer for 2017/18 was £205.7m. This will support a range of research, scholarship, and educational activities across the University including the John Fell Fund and the Clarendon Scholarships. We are proud of the fact that since the Clarendon Scholarships launched in 2000, the Press’s surplus has directly funded more than 2,000 post-graduate students from across the world to pursue their studies and research at Oxford.
In 2017/18 the Press consolidated recent success, and furthered its objectives in its three main lines of business. These are undoubtedly difficult times for all publishers, as we work out how best to serve our customers in an increasingly networked and digital world. The Press approaches these challenges with a strong sense of purpose, fully aware that continuing success depends on the skill, passion, and commitment of our more than 6,000 employees across the world.