Funding cuts create staff and course turmoil

December 3, 2009

The vice-chancellor of the University of Leeds refused to rule out compulsory redundancies or course closures during a live webcast that crashed under the weight of numbers accessing it.

Michael Arthur discussed the university's plan to save £35 million a year by 2011 in an interview broadcast live on the Leeds website last week.

However, the site crashed as a result of 2,000 simultaneous requests to log on, with 6,000 page requests over the whole day.

Professor Arthur described compulsory redundancies as a "very remote" prospect, but added: "I don't know what is going to happen next summer to our funding. If we get a significant cut, I can't rule it out completely."

He also refused to dismiss the possibility of the closure of courses or faculties, although he said this too was "unlikely".

Meanwhile, the University of Sussex has become the latest institution to announce job losses, but is pressing ahead with plans to increase student numbers. It is consulting on plans to cut 115 jobs, tempered by about 20 "potential redeployment opportunities", from July 2010.

The university cited future cuts in state funding and a £1.5 million fall in income following the 2008 research assessment exercise as factors.

Michael Farthing, vice-chancellor, says in an email to staff that Sussex is facing a £3 million deficit this year, but will "try to avoid compulsory redundancies". There will still be "significant growth in the number of international and postgraduate students", he adds.

Paul Cecil, the University and College Union branch president, said he was "greatly concerned about the impact this will have on staff who remain and the education of the students at Sussex".

There was also bleak financial news at the University of Cumbria, which announced an £8.4 million deficit for its second year since foundation. It has put on hold plans for a £70 million campus in Carlisle.

Bournemouth University is to cut 15 academic staff in its Business School, but will create 25 new posts, which it said would strengthen the school's research profile.

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