Manchester 'blames Brexit' for 'enormous' job cuts

UCU attacks plans to cut 171 posts, but university denies Brexit 'the reason'

May 10, 2017
Man throwing axes
Source: Getty
Brace yourself: one sector voice said the cuts were the start of the TEF’s impact

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.

jack.grove@timeshighereducation.com

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Reader's comments (4)

UCU needs to come up with the goods here. With the increasing use of metrics to judge staff performance, and the financialization of universities, there is now a lot of data with which to judge the fairness and legitimacy of redundancy processes. As a graduate, and former employee of Manchester Business School, it is troubling too that it is making 40 of 90 odd staff redundant, while at the same time building a 4* Hotel on its campus. I will take a lot of persuading there is not a serious strategic distortion here.
'Enormous cuts' does not seem to be the right phrase considering that 171 job losses being reported and overall 12,000 employees at UoM - that's .01425 percent of the faculty/professional services workforce?!
1.425% you certainly did not get a maths degree
Time for academics to refuse to particiape in the REF it is just a tool of management to go after academics and either sack them or stop giving them pay rises. There needs to be a MEF that is a management excellence framework whereby managers are appraised by the academic staff / professional staff and sacked if they do not perform to the required standard.

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

Worried man wiping forehead
Two academics explain how to beat some of the typical anxieties associated with a doctoral degree

Felipe Fernández-Armesto takes issue with a claim that the EU has been playing the sovereignty card in Brexit negotiations

Man throwing axes

UCU attacks plans to cut 171 posts, but university denies Brexit 'the reason'

Kenny Dalglish

Agnes Bäker and Amanda Goodall have found that academics who are happiest at work have a head of department who is a distinguished researcher. How can such people be encouraged into management?

A group of flamingos and a Marabou stork

A right-wing philosopher in Texas tells John Gill how a minority of students can shut down debates and intimidate lecturers – and why he backs Trump