- Annual Report
- The year in
- Finances &
The Press completed another successful trading year despite the difficulties in the economic environment.
Before I reflect on last year’s achievements I would like to comment on the recent announcements by the UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO) and World Bank Group regarding the agreed resolutions we reached with them in July 2012.
In May 2011 the Press was alerted by the World Bank to the possibility of irregularities with payments related to tenders in East Africa. We immediately instructed external lawyers and forensic accountants to undertake a thorough investigation, and we self-reported the findings to the World Bank and the SFO.
The findings indicated that our two East African subsidiaries, OUP East Africa (based in Kenya) and OUP Tanzania, had offered and made payments intended to influence the outcome of a number of tenders in two East African countries between 2007 and 2010.
The terms of the settlements from the two agencies include a UK civil recovery order of £1.9 million, a $500,000 (£312,000) payment to the World Bank, debarment of OUP East Africa and OUP Tanzania from taking part in World Bank-funded tenders for three years, and a requirement for the Press to work with an independent compliance monitor to continue to improve its internal compliance programme.
The Press is committed to maintaining the highest ethical standards, and we were deeply concerned to have discovered evidence of wrongdoing in our East African subsidiaries. We do not tolerate this sort of behaviour. The Press’s management has been strengthened in the region and we have taken appropriate action in respect of those involved in this conduct.
Before these matters came to light we had already initiated a major integrity and compliance programme across the Press’s worldwide operations. We are committed to the highest standards of integrity throughout the Press, and we are redoubling our efforts to secure that commitment.
Over the last three years, we have undertaken a series of ambitious investments to position the Press for the transition to digital publishing and to take advantage of the opportunities open to us.
As part of this programme we invested significantly in our academic publishing last year. We made important journal signings including the American Historical Review, the journal of the American Historical Association; developed innovative new online platforms such as University Press Scholarship Online; and introduced new business models including the advertising and subscriber based Oxford Dictionaries Online site. We also added additional sales, marketing, and editorial staff across the world in order to take advantage of rising demand from emerging markets, particularly in China and India.
Our educational publishing benefited from increased investment, with new series for the Spanish and UK markets, and the development of resources for new curricula in Australia and South Africa. We also developed educational services including professional development and assessment tools. We now provide face-to-face and online support for hundreds of thousands of teachers around the world, and offer a complete management system for private language schools in Brazil in the form of Achieve Languages, supporting the needs of teachers and students in innovative ways.
Many of these new publishing and service programmes depend on us having a sound technological infrastructure, and we have been strengthening this to support our growing range of digital products and learning platforms.
new titles joined the Oxford Journals in 2011/2012
The benefits of our investment programme have started to show, in particular across our range of digital publications and services.
Despite academic library budget cuts, and the uncertainty caused by a rapid shift to digital formats, we had a successful year in our academic publishing. We considerably increased the number of scholarly journals that we publish, with 21 titles joining the Oxford Journals collection, and we widened the dissemination of our print titles and digital products around the world, particularly in emerging markets. We are also responding to the changing needs of students and researchers by experimenting with different formats and business models. More than 110 of our journals now use some kind of open access model, while a growing number of our titles are available as apps and e-books, or from mobile devices.
We were also successful in schools markets across the world, gaining market share in countries including the UK, South Africa, and Spain. The continued growth in the number of international and bilingual schools further boosted sales; and we made progress in the English language teaching sector, with growth in Asia, South America, and the Middle East. It is now estimated that one in five English learners across the world utilizes an Oxford resource. Demand for digital content in classrooms increased last year, and we were able to respond by offering a series of innovative resources. Digital elements were included in classroom resources across all of our international school markets and for the first time the English Language Teaching division published more digital than print titles.
Group sales in 2011/12 were £695 million, which was organic growth of 9.9%, and to which all of our publishing divisions contributed. This is a strong performance given the current economic climate, and we believe that it compares favourably to our publishing peers. Despite the increase in investment, we maintained a high level of surplus, which, before interest, the funding of the Oxford English Dictionary, minority interests, and taxation, and after the costs associated with the World Bank and SFO agreed resolutions, stood at £116 million.
While financial success helps us to compete effectively and invest for the future, the fulfilment of the University’s scholarly and educational mission is our primary purpose. New publications, market share growth in key segments, and expansion into emerging markets all provided evidence of how we are reaching more people around the world. Investments made this year will play an important role in our long-term digital transition and allow us to support the learning and research needs of people across the world well into the future.
English learners across the world utilizes an Oxford resource
As a department of the University of Oxford, we create world-class resources and make them available as widely as possible in pursuit of the University’s objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education. Given our size—6,000 employees in more than fifty countries—and the importance of upholding the University’s excellent reputation, it is imperative that all of our employees understand the Press’s purpose and the behaviour expected of them, particularly in light of the events in East Africa. We have put in place a number of Press-wide initiatives designed to ensure that we work collaboratively and with integrity. This includes a new Press Code of Conduct, which presents a set of values and principles that underpin our work, and the online communication and collaboration platform Oxford Share. Combined with a clear focus on our mission, these types of initiative will help guide us as the Press evolves.
Next year we will launch a number of exciting new digital products and platforms in our academic and educational operations, further extending the range of our publishing and our global reach. Planned continued high levels of investment will position the Press for the future, and while there are undoubtedly risks and challenges arising from a range of economic and environmental factors, I am confident that the Press can overcome these and continue to provide the highest quality academic and educational resources for our millions of readers worldwide.