Middlesex faces up to Pounds 3m deficit

February 14, 1997

JOBS and courses are under threat at Middlesex University as it faces up to a Pounds 3 million projected budget deficit.

The former Middlesex Polytechnic has begun a thorough review of its academic and administrative structure after projections revealed that it would slide from a Pounds 3.6 million surplus this year to Pounds 3 million in the red by 1999/2000. The university has calculated that to avoid deficit it must make savings in excess of 6 per cent over the next two to three years.

Managers are considering axing courses that fail to meet recruitment targets. Faculty and school structures may be replaced with fewer new schools and budget/resource management centres. Administrative and support functions may be centralised.

Vice chancellor Michael Driscoll said that no decisions have or will be made until consultations with staff and students are completed. Professor Driscoll was deputy vice chancellor to David Melville, now chief executive of the Further Education Funding Council, until last October. He said that following the last Budget, the university could not afford to wait another year before undertaking a structural review.

He said: "I did not anticipate having a radical review but the public expenditure settlement, and other things beginning to emerge, made me think that it would be potentially damaging to have a one-year hiatus. It is not inevitable that there will be job losses but we will be looking for opportunities to cut costs."

Professor Driscoll explained that the university had doubled its student population to 22,000 in five years. He said that the effective financial cap on student recruitment imposed in 1993 had had a severe impact.

The university's management team is engaged in a series of meetings until May when members are expected to approve a restructuring plan. A parallel series of open meetings have been organised with staff and students.

Many staff are unhappy with the rate of proposed change. One academic said: "The first official notification of the restructuring came in a paper at the end of January. It said that management had considered four options of which two had already been rejected. This identifies the type of rushed and pseudo-consultation that tends to permeate many universities these days."

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