The wonderful world of finance

It may be said that Finance data doesn’t always attract the big crowds in the world of HE. The HE main stage is often reserved for hotter topics like the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), Research Excellence Framework (REF) and external media focus from league tables often focus on the academic and student outcomes, rather than the support system sitting behind it. In our experience financial data struggles to get visualised and has a reputation for being dull and wedded to excel data tables. Cue #VisualisingHE…

We thought it would be a great idea to focus this post on the wonderful world of finance. We merrily went off and downloaded years of finance returns from HESA and combined them into a wonderful big data set, pulled on our finest Tableau viz gloves, poured a large coffee and readied ourselves to create some tableau masterpieces. We were thinking; small multiples, exploratory box plots and even the odd map.

All was going well until Adam pointed out:


Having just two years of data just made it a whole more tricky to do something interesting.  Most of the ideas we had fell by the way side.  The exploratory viz survived and Stephen joined the conversation and looked at mapping. Searching for ideas and filling a long string of twitter messaging, conversations took a bizarre twist with references to BANs. Dave was transcended back to his younger days where ‘just for fun’ he was tasked to build spreadsheets for his Dad in Supercalc – Adam felt it would be rude not to pay homage to this fond memory and attempted a retro spreadsheet viz to bring the memory back to life:


HESA Finance: 2014/5 & 2015/6 IN THE STYLE OF: SUPERCALC

On this finance focused folly we have honed in on Income, Expenditure and Surplus deficit, and here are the headline BANS:

Total income was £34.7 billion during the financial year to 31 July 2016. Overall expenditure was £33 billion in 2015/16. The surplus of income over expenditure was £2.3 billion in 2015/16, or 6.8% of total income.

The hard hitting stat (KFI) in the wonderful world of Finance, is Surplus deficit as a percent of total income, so our vizzes mainly explore this key financial indicator.

Below is an exploratory viz encouraging the viewer into the relationship between income, expenditure, surplus or deficit between providers, mission groups and years.

surplus deficit_explorartory.png

Link to viz: HESA Finance 2014/15 – 2015/16

The number of HE providers reporting a surplus was 142 out of 163 in 2015/16. Deficits in the financial year 2015/16 were reported by 20 providers.

So plenty of stuff there – one last roll of the dice…

Shape – the vizzes so far were great at looking at the providers and how they were performing but we wanted to have a play around and see if we could find something that shows the shape of the sector and a bit of how it has changed.

Income Expenditure Surplus

Link to viz: Income, Expenditure and Surplus for the UK HE Sector

Does it work?  Sort of we can see that the sector has made slightly more surplus in 2015/16 and we can see that only a few institutions make the bulk of the surplus.  We can also see that as a sector there has been a better financial performance with less providers having a negative KFI (Surplus/deficit as a % of total income).

There are definitely more effective ways of representing this (such as the exploratory view above) but we enjoyed trying something new.

Hopefully you have managed to get to the end and we have managed to convince you that it is possible to visualise HE finance data and find some useful insight.


One thought on “The wonderful world of finance

  1. […] The wonderful world of finance […]


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