Put anxiety aside for institution's sake, staff told

November 25, 2010

The vice-chancellor of London Metropolitan University has outlined the scale of the financial challenge facing his institution, prompting fears of further job cuts and course closures.

In a packed meeting on 22 November, Malcolm Gillies said that the institution still had to pay back £34 million to the Higher Education Funding Council for England after previous financial mismanagement, and faced a reduction in public funding of more than £40 million if Lord Browne's proposals were implemented.

The Browne Review was a "huge gamble", he said, adding that "most of us will at some stage feel like turkeys approaching Christmas time".

But unless staff "could put that anxiety and concern aside and put institutional interest first, we may find that we don't have enough time", Professor Gillies said.

Outlining a series of options for the future, he said that the university's "sustainability action plan" was modelled on 55 per cent of the university's costs going on staff. The current figure is 60 per cent.

He also highlighted the fact that 80 per cent of the university's students were studying just 80 courses and that the remaining 20 per cent were studying some 200.

A review of the university's undergraduate provision is due to report in March 2011.

Mark Campbell, of the London Met branch of the University and College Union, said that reducing staff costs to 55 per cent on a reduced income could mean the loss of "hundreds of staff jobs - far more than in the last round where we lost 350 of our colleagues".

But Professor Gillies said he hoped it would be possible to "mitigate" more "draconian" measures.

Managers and the board of governors were "not currently entertaining" the idea of borrowing, selling or merging their way out of the problem.

He warned that the university must not "destroy our own brand and reputation from within. That is a real worry and it is something we do need to remember when we see words like 'close' and 'fail'...They weaken student confidence in the institution. Just remember that the student is the funding agent."

rebecca.attwood@tsleducation.com.

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