Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) has hailed a positive financial year despite the challenges posed by the Covid-19 crisis.
The rural college, which runs campuses across Scotland including Craibstone near Aberdeen and Elmwood in Fife, says Covid-19 mitigation measures helped deliver an operating surplus of £900,000 for the year to March 31, 2021.
The latest accounts also show a drop in revenue with SRUC reporting a total comprehensive loss of £3.6 million, compared to income of £3.8m the year before.
SRUC said a switch to bed and breakfast style accommodation for students to book short stays on campus during the pandemic, along with lower research income, led to a decrease in revenue.
However, it said a 10.5% increase in student applications and reduced operating costs as a result of fewer people being on campus helped offset these losses.
SRUC chief executive and principal, Professor Wayne Powell, said the last financial year had been both extraordinary and challenging however the college had demonstrated huge levels of adaptability and resilience.
“Despite the challenges of Covid-19, we ended the year in a strong position financially,” said Prof Powell.
“The balance sheet remains strong with £27m of cash and short-term investments at year-end and an underlying net surplus of £0.1m is ahead of the prior year which, given the impact of the pandemic, is an exceptional result.”
He paid tribute to the college’s workforce – which stood at an average of 1,105 full-time equivalents during the year – and said: “The character, resilience, flexibility and commitment of my colleagues over the past 15 months has been outstanding and has been the cornerstone of the successes recorded in this annual report.
“This shared endeavour, built on a culture of teamwork, has not only sustained our operation but in some cases supported significant growth.”
The accounts also reveal a £3.7m increase in SRUC’s total pension liability to £27.7m – an increase the college attributed to its four final salary pension schemes.
SRUC said its commercial arm – SAC Commercial – continued to achieve a profitable trading position in a difficult market sector.
The college said: “Although the operating profit of £1.2m was around £700,000 down on the previous year, operational cost savings and the innovative work of the veterinary services lab at the Pentland Science Park, which was utilised as a Covid-19 testing facility for NHS Lothian, helped to mitigate losses.”