Storm defences in place

August 27, 2009

The story ("Storm warning: change now or perish, institutions told", 13 August) helpfully restates the causes of the severe financial pressure that universities are experiencing now and will continue to suffer for years to come. It is not difficult to project forward the combined and cumulative impact of government (and private sector) funding cuts, pay-cost inflation, pension deficits and the risks to international and domestic student recruitment to create apocalyptic scenarios for the future.

To suggest, however, that "some" (how many is this, exactly?) vice-chancellors, finance directors and other senior staff either fail to comprehend the scale of the challenge or are deliberately avoiding taking the necessary action to respond to this set of circumstances does not describe a sector that I recognise.

To further imply that institutions should shift from being academic to business-focused in order to survive is nonsensical. Of course we need to guard against complacency, particularly in view of short-term counter-cyclical economic indicators such as the strength of home undergraduate applications and the weaker pound that supports international competitiveness, but to characterise the senior management response in such a patronising and unsubstantiated manner does little to enhance confidence in our ability to weather the storm.

Phil Harding, Chief financial officer, City University.

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