Elitism bid threatens 300 Newcastle jobs

July 27, 2001

Newcastle University's plans to get into the top ten of Britain's elite universities are expected to cost up to 300 jobs.

Confirming radical restructuring plans to raise £6 million a year for investments and to climb the league tables, Newcastle admitted it had been overspending on staff compared with its rivals and falling behind where it mattered: on home and overseas student recruitment, income and research performance.

The senate last week unanimously approved plans by vice-chancellor Christopher Edwards, brought in from Imperial College earlier this year to restructure the university.

Professor Edwards told senate that good teaching quality assessment results and improvements to Newcastle's position in newspaper league tables "mask a worrying underlying problem".

In a discussion paper seen by The THES , Professor Edwards said there had been a "steady decline in our market share of Ucas (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) applications over the past five years. We are simply not as attractive to high-quality students as our competitors in the Russell Group."

Analysis of Newcastle's performance against eight rivals - Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Nottingham, Sheffield and Southampton - made difficult reading:

* Newcastle has the lowest total income and income growth has been slower since 1995

* It has the lowest proportion of income from research grants and contracts in relation to staff costs

* Research council grants as a percentage of total income are at 5.4 per cent, compared with 10.4 per cent at Southampton

* Its annual average growth in research grants and contracts since 1995 has been 5.5 per cent, compared with 11.5 per cent at Sheffield

* Overseas, full-cost student and other student fees income, as a percentage of total income, is 4.4 per cent compared with 13.6 per cent at Sheffield. Newcastle's fee income is some £28 million below Nottingham's.

A Newcastle spokesman said: "We have been doing pretty well and improving our position in the league tables. Our recruitment is up by 4 per cent. There is certainly no crisis here but the vice-chancellor feels we need to be in the top ten."

Seven faculties with about 75 departments will merge into three with about ten departments (re-named "schools") each.

Newcastle spends 60 per cent of its £171 million turnover on its 4,200 staff, compared with about 53 to 57 per cent among similar institutions. It hopes to avoid compulsory redundancies and would not discuss redundancy figures, claiming no detailed decisions have been made.

But sources have confirmed local reports of about 200 jobs losses, and the Association of University Teachers branch president George Reeves put the figure at about 300.

  • The University of Lincolnshire and Humberside's moves to quit Hull and reposition itself as the University of Lincoln will cost about 200 jobs.

    The restructuring, which involves the sale of its Hull campus and the relocation of some staff to Lincoln, could mean compulsory redundancies among both academic and non-academic staff.

    Lecturers' union Natfhe's local branch passed a motion last week expressing "grave concern" about the strategy.

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