Select Committee on Public Accounts Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the Victoria & Albert Museum (PAC00-01/127)


  "A loss of income of approximately £800,000"

  £800,000 is in fact a substantial over-estimate. The loss of income on the 320,000 visitors by which we fell short of our target was rather between £550,000 and £650,000. The suggested figure fails to take account of the fact that VAT is levied on admission charges, and that a substantial percentage of those visitors would have benefited from concessionary rate entry, promotional discounts and season tickets.


  Research conducted after the introduction of charging concluded that there was no evidence that the overall visitor profile had shifted. The proportion of visitors from socio-economic groups C2, D and E, for example, remained static.


  "The real cost per head of different people is probably about £50 a head"

  This suggestion dramatically over states the effect of basing the calculation of grant in aid per head on the number of visitors, rather than visits. The V&A does have a core of very loyal visitors who visit more than once a month, but together they account for only about 50,000 visits a year. Although about 50 per cent of visits are made by repeating visitors, relatively large proportions of these visit once a year or less. Visitor surveys show that in 1999-2000, the V&A at South Kensington was visited by at least 700,000 different people, out of 880,000 total visits. Well over 1 million different people visited the V&A and its branch museums in that year.

  Furthermore, since all museums and galleries use the same convention, reporting visits rather than visitors, it is misleading to suggest that the number of repeat visitors makes the V&A comparatively more expensive than other museums.


  Around 45,000 children visit the V&A each year in school groups, are reported here. A further 30,000 visit in family groups. The figure of 30,000 is used correctly in the context of the gallery education programme, which is aimed at independent learners. However, this figure is incorrectly quoted on page 12, question 17 in the context of formal education, when the figure of 45,000 should have been used.


Reconciliation of visitor numbers and admission revenue

  As stated at the hearing, about ½ (slightly less) of all visitors pay, but not all pay full price.

In 1999-2000, approximately
paid full price (£5)
paid the concessionary rate (£3)
benefited from other reduced rate admissions (e.g. season tickets allowing repeat visits, 2 for 1 offers and other promotions)
paid a membership fee to the Friends organisation or the Patrons scheme

paid something

  VAT has to be accounted for on receipts so the net receipt on a £5 admission, for instance, is £4.55.

  The published admissions revenue of £1.8 million includes branch museums; £1.6 million of the total related to South Kensington.

  The figures therefore reconcile as:

Numbers (000)
Revenue net of VAT (£000)
Full price
Season tickets/promotional offers

South Kensington component of published £1.8 million from all sites
Friends and Patrons
received via donation from Friends organisation reported under donations rather than admissions income

Total paying visitors

47% of total


  The following information about the profile of the schools visiting the V&A was requested. We should like to emphasise that, before any conclusions can be drawn from these figures, they should be compared with similar data from other museums. The data is based on an analysis of a random sample of 250 recent schools bookings.

    —  80 per cent of schools visiting the V&A are from the state sector. In England as a whole, 90 per cent of all schools are in the state sector. These figures do suggest that the V&A has a slightly higher proportion of visits from independent schools than would be the case of its school visits profile completely mirrored the profile of the sector as a whole. However most school visits to the V&A are from schools in London and the South East where only 85 per cent of schools are in the state sector. Moreover, great care must be taken in interpreting these figures in the absence of any comparative data from other museums. Anecdotal evidence suggests that independent schools make a greater number of museum visits than state schools and the V&A's school visits profile is unlikely to be unusual in this respect.

    —  Many of the state schools visiting the V&A have a high proportion of pupils from lower socio-economic groups. 33 per cent of secondary state schools visiting the V&A have above average numbers of children taking free school meals; for primary state schools, the figure rises to 65 per cent.

  (Source of comparative data: DFEE statistics Schools 2000).

Victoria & Albert Museum

11 April 2001

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 13 July 2001