Cambridge says 'cull' was road to stability

January 7, 2000

Cambridge University spent Pounds 10 million on a "staff cull" last year, shedding 156 people through early retirement and saving potentially Pounds 2.5 million a year.

Many remaining staff face an "unavoidable increase in their short-term workload", according to the university council.

But at the same time Cambridge has seen its income increase by 8.5 per cent and now has a total net worth of more than Pounds 1 billion.

Annual accounts for the year to July 1999 show that the Pounds 10 million voluntary early retirement scheme was necessary to put the university on the road to financial stability.

A total of 156 staff, including 79 academic or academic-related staff, took early retirement in the scheme, described as a "staff cull" by the university's internal standards watchdog. Treasurer Joanna Womack said it would "contribute significantly to financial savings in 1999-2000 and succeeding years, as well as facilitating positive restructuring in many faculties".

Meanwhile, Cambridge has set aside Pounds 1.3 million to fund appointments to boost its performance in the research assessment exercise.

The increase in income to Pounds 318 million, up from Pounds 293 million in 1998, much larger than the previous year's 3.8 per cent increase, was largely the result of more private income.

Income from research grants and contracts went up by 9 per cent to Pounds 109 million, representing more than a third of total income. Money from the Higher Education Funding Council and the Teacher Training Agency of Pounds 93.5 million accounts for 29.4 per cent of income.

Overseas fees increased by 11.5 per cent, with total fee income at Pounds 43.9 million. Endowments reached Pounds 34.6 million, up from Pounds 32.9 million last year.

"Cambridge is a financially stable and growing institution that has continued to increase its income from private sources and to endeavour to promote economy, efficiency and effectiveness," said Ms Womack.

But it has again ignored advice from its internal board of scrutiny. A separate report from the university's council detailed its decisions to reject key recommendations from the board.

It ignored six of the scrutiny board's ten recommendations, made in summer 1999, including:

The call for a report into the balance of funding between schools, on the grounds that it would be "inopportune" to do so while a mission review was taking place

The call to make Cambridge University Press comply with accounting standards applicable to subsidiaries of commercial companies.

The council also clashed with the board over staff pay and conditions, which the board said had been dealt with in a "fragmented" way. The board had condemned Cambridge for failing to reward junior staff properly, while focusing resources on senior staff.

The council said: "It is not realistic to expect that local solutions to problems experienced by more junior staff are possible when the national scale of the problem is so great."

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