Report of the Secretary to the Delegates

In 2019/20, OUP reported £844.9m of Group turnover and 0.3 per cent growth at like-for-like constant exchange rates compared to the previous year. We saw a strong performance throughout the year, and without doubt we would have seen good growth in both turnover and surplus, were it not for the impact of the coronavirus in the final quarter.

Image of Nigel signature

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

Our Academic Division continued to adapt successfully to the rapidly changing customer requirements that we saw by expanding its digital offer. Our journals performed particularly well, with usage increasing by seven per cent. However, both OUP and the wider industry were impacted by the continued decline in print revenues, and the shift towards inclusive access in Higher Education.


Our English Language Teaching resources performed strongly this year, with impressive growth in Spain, Turkey, Brazil, and key markets in Europe. This was driven by the launch of important and impactful new titles and resources, and the increased demand for digital resources.


In Education, we retained our position as the number one publisher for Primary and Secondary in the UK, and regained the position of top Secondary digital publisher. In Australia, we were again the leading Secondary education publisher, and we saw impressive results in Kenya due to our work supporting the government’s curriculum reforms. It was a more challenging picture in some other marketsin India, we continued to be affected by the move towards government-mandated textbooks, while in Hong Kong the economy contracted for the first time since 2009.   


From January, market conditions suddenly became very difficult as Mainland China and Hong Kong implemented lockdown measures, including the closure of schools and institutions, to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. By the middle of March, almost all of our markets were in a similar position, which had a material impact on our turnover in the final quarter of the year. We expect these difficult trading conditions to persist into the next financial year.  


Despite these challenges, I am proud of how OUP has adapted to new modes of working and found ways to support our customers and wider communities in these extraordinary circumstances. You can find out about how we are ensuring that people can continue to access high-quality research and education later in this report.

OUP continues to serve three large, global publishing markets—research, the learning of English, and education (Schools and Higher Education). We remain focused on improving our data, digital, and technology capabilities; achieving growth in emerging markets; demonstrating and increasing the impact of our products and services; increasing efficiency and speed to market; developing services around our high-quality content; and creating a diverse, inclusive culture that reflects our markets, and enables our people to thrive.


We have made great progress against our priorities this year:

  • we were chosen by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to deliver the Science Assessment Framework for PISA 2025, working with experts and representatives from across our sector
  • in Pakistan, 55,000 teachers—including those in more remote regions—benefited from our professional development services
  • we partnered with VIPKid, based in China and the UK, to provide high-quality English language learning content to the growing young learner population in China
  • we released the tenth edition of the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, launching five print versions, two app-based versions, and an online version simultaneously
  • we continued our move towards Open Access in our academic research publishing, signing a significant five-year deal with the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC)—the largest research institution in Spain—and now offer 70 fully Open Access journals
  • we celebrated the tenth anniversary of Oxford Handbooks Online, which has grown from four titles, to more than 35,000 articles and 1,000 handbooks spanning 17 subject areas; and
  • internally, we launched our Global Inclusion Programme, to help employees recognize and tackle unconscious bias.

We also implemented organizational changes to make us better-placed to achieve our ambitions and serve our customers. This included merging our two education divisions—Oxford Education and Asia Education—into one single Education Division and bringing together our Technology and Operations functions globally to improve efficiency, and to better support our ongoing digital development.


OUP’s surplus from trading before interest, funded projects, minority interests, and taxation (reported under FRS 102 accounting standard) was £108.1m down 0.4 per cent on prior year and two per cent at constant exchange rates. The decline reflects the impact of the coronavirus on our turnover in the final quarter. Our annual transfer to the rest of the University was £53.6m, which will support a range of research, scholarship, and educational activities including the John Fell Fund and the Clarendon Fund.


It is of course hard to predict how our world will look this time next year, but we hope that we will have continued to adapt to and then recovered from the pandemic. There will undoubtedly be difficult times ahead, and across OUP we will need to ensure that we focus on what is essential to support our communities and customers and to secure our future during and after this crisis. However, I am confident that there will continue to be a demand for the high-quality materials and services for education and research that OUP provides, although the way in which they are accessed and used may change significantly in this next period. My colleagues and I have an unwavering commitment to our mission and this, together with our breadth of products and services, and our global market positions means that we can be confident that we will weather this storm and hopefully emerge from it stronger than ever.