The University of Manchester is said to have cited the financial uncertainties caused by factors including Brexit and the teaching excellence framework, as it announced plans to cut almost 200 posts.
Under proposals outlined by the university on 10 May, some 926 staff will be at risk of losing their job, with 171 eventual job losses planned.
The university – the UK’s largest Russell Group institution with about 40,000 students and 12,000 staff – said that the changes were driven by uncertainties around loss of future income from factors including Brexit and the TEF, according to the University and College Union. Increased global competition, reductions in public funding, exchange rate fluctuations and the potential decline in student numbers and research income, new private providers, and further increases in costs arising from pensions and inflation were also factors, according to the union's account of the redundancies notice provided to it by the university.
But a Manchester spokesman said on 11 May: "Brexit is not the reason for these proposals. These proposals are designed to improve the quality of our research and student experience in some areas and ensure the financial sustainability of the University. Brexit and exchange rate fluctuations are features of the external environment in which all British universities and other organisations are operating at this present time."
However, the UCU dismissed what it said was Manchester’s claim that the job losses were needed in light of “increased financial, political and sector uncertainty” caused by Brexit and other factors.
“We see no economic rationale for jobs cuts on such an enormous scale,” said Sally Hunt, UCU general secretary, pointing to a £59.7 million surplus registered in the university’s latest annual accounts, which are for the year 2015-16.
“The University of Manchester is in a strong financial position and we believe it is using recent government policy changes and Brexit as an excuse to make short-term cuts that will cause long-term damage,” said Ms Hunt.
Academic job losses will be concentrated in three departments. In the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures, 35 posts will be cut from a pool of 104 whose jobs are at risk. In the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health, 65 academic jobs are to go with 627 people at risk. Some 40 jobs will be axed at the Alliance Manchester Business School, with 104 jobs at risk.
In a statement, the university said it had a “bold ambition to be a world leading institution, with a reputation based on academic excellence”.
“In order to meet this ambition, we must improve the quality of our research and student experience in some areas and ensure the financial sustainability of the university,” adding that “realising this ambition will require a capacity to invest in our strategic priorities”, it added.
It also said it had “detailed plans for significant growth in funds from a range of activities, but we will also need to make cost savings”.
The plans were approved by its board of governors on 3 May and it was now in consultation with trade unions, the university added.
“The university proposes to open a voluntary severance scheme for staff at risk, to avoid the need for compulsory redundancy if at all possible,” it said.