Durham relaxes hiring ban after doing its sums

Durham University has relaxed a temporary suspension on recruitment imposed in response to the Browne Review and government funding cuts.

November 11, 2010

After being contacted by Times Higher Education, Durham said hiring had now started again, although all spending above £25,000 still had to pass a special approval process.

The suspension shows how universities are adapting their stance on jobs after the Browne Review, which advocates a competitive fees market, and the Comprehensive Spending Review, which cut the higher education budget by 40 per cent, excluding research. Universities worry that while the cuts will start in April 2011, extra income from fees will not begin to come through until September 2012 - and that is provided the government's proposed changes have a smooth passage through Parliament.

Chris Higgins, Durham's vice-chancellor, told staff of the suspension on hiring in an email, saying it would remain in place "until we better understand the magnitude of any (funding) shortfall and the best way to minimise its impact".

In a statement this week, Professor Higgins said he had now assured himself that Durham's strategy remained sound despite the changed financial environment.

"As with any responsible university which manages its finances in a careful and sustainable way, the announcement of 80 per cent cuts to our teaching grant...led us to temporarily suspend major expenditure as a precautionary measure," he said.

"Having completed further modelling, we are now assured that even with the government cuts we can continue to operate as planned in the coming year. Purchases over £25,000 will still be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, but staff are generally being advised to continue project planning as usual."

Les Ebdon, chair of the Million+ group of newer universities, claimed that pre-1992 universities were likely to be "more nervous" about staffing than post-1992s.

He argued that statutes for older universities make staff redundancies harder, that their income was squeezed in the last research assessment exercise, and that pension costs under the Universities Superannuation Scheme have risen sharply.


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