Letter: It is a crisis and it's Labour's fault (2)

April 6, 2001

I cannot speak for those of my colleagues at the other universities that have been invited by the Higher Education Funding Council for England to prepare a plan following the shortfall in student recruitment, but at South Bank we do not believe we are fighting for survival.

This university has a very high proportion of students from ethnic minority origins and the highest proportion of mature students in the country. Demand from these groups has been most affected by the changes in student financial support, and we have to live with that factor.

Last Thursday, our governing body approved a provisional plan involving staff losses and other reductions in expenditure that will enable us to maintain a balance between income and expenditure. The reduction in staffing will be accomplished by natural wastage, voluntary severance and some redundancies. All of this is manageable, as the university has significant cash reserves.

The plan accepted by the governors will enable us to continue with our extensive building development and will allow us to continue our exciting progress in areas not directly funded by Hefce, most notably Teaching Company Schemes, research and consultancy, NHS contracts, overseas students and spin-off companies. All of these activities are flourishing.

Hefce has been helpful and sympathetic, and the university is confident of its future. Talk of fights for survival is entirely misleading.

Gerald Bernbaum Vice-chancellor and chief executive South Bank University

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