Turnover dropped 0.9% at Oxford University Press in the year to 31st March 2018, to a total of £840.1m, after “challenging and unexpected market conditions” in its Education business, offset by a “very strong” year for the Academic division.
Meanwhile after what was described as “significant investment” in technology projects at OUP, the publisher's overall trading surplus dropped 7.3% (1.5% on a like-for-like basis at constant currency rates) to £114.9m.
The Press’s total transfer to the University for the year was £205.7m.
Although no divisional figures were broken out, c.e.o. Nigel Portwood said in the publisher's annual report that the Academic division's “very strong” year had seen journals a key source of turnover growth, with a 10% increase to the online journals platform and an 18% uplift in journal articles downloads. Academic books, higher education and dictionaries also grew their revenues. Digital products accounted for more than half of the Academic division’s overall revenue.
The report noted that growing expectations from funders for Open Access and Open Education Resources had affected library sales, and sales in higher education. “In response, OUP agreed combined Open Access and subscription deals with two major consortia for the first time this year,” it said. “This is a positive step for the industry, although it will add future complexities for authors, librarians, and therefore for OUP."
But OUP’s Education business, encompassing Schools and Higher Education, was hit by fewer curriculum reform opportunities than in previous years across the major markets, as well as new government education policies in several countries, such as in India where there had been increasing pressure on schools to use government produced materials.
The Press said that digital products and services had continued to rise in popularity in education, with a "notable increase" in the number of teachers using interactive and digital content, particularly in South Africa, Australia, India, and the UK. OUP is piloting and launching digital and blended services across the Asia Pacific region, including a standardized test for assessment in India schools called Oxford STAR, and will carry on exploring opportunities to expand its digital offering in the future, it said.
Highlight projects included delivering four million books to 8,500 Kenyan schools in just three months in support of the government-led Secondary Education Quality Improvement programme; and launching the Big Reading Club in China earlier this year, OUP’s first digital home-learning product designed exclusively for the mainland China market.
OUP’s English Language Teaching (ELT) business was “challenging” in some of its advanced markets, such as Spain, partly due to the increased use of second-hand materials; but growth remained strong in emerging markets, particularly Asia and Latin America.
Commenting on the year overall, Portwood said: “I am very pleased that despite market difficulty we were able to achieve such a good underlying result. We were also able to continue to increase our investment in technology and market expansion, in line with the opportunities that we see.” OUP’s level of investment in technology projects is expected to continue to increase in future years, he said.
Last year OUP saw 3.3% turnover growth and an increase in the trading surplus of 14%.