The institution said the cuts had been forced on it by a reduction in its funding from Northern Ireland’s Department of Employment and Learning which is expected to amount to approximately £8 million in 2015-16.
At a meeting on 14 April, the Queen’s senate agreed to launch a voluntary redundancy scheme, with the aim of reducing the university’s headcount by 236 by this December. The university said it was too early to say whether compulsory redundancies would be required.
The student intake will be reduced by 1,010 over the next three years, starting with a reduction of 290 this autumn. Applicants who have received an offer from Queen’s and who achieve their grades will still have a place, but candidates who fall short of expectations are unlikely to be admitted.
The subsequent reduction in tuition fee income is expected to cost the university a further £3.7 million.
In addition, Patrick Johnston, the vice-chancellor, will lead a strategic review tasked with deciding which academic programmes should continue and which should be closed.
With Ulster University also facing significant funding cuts, Professor Johnston said that these were “really serious times” for Northern Ireland’s universities.
Some observers have called for tuition fees to be raised to £9,000 and Professor Johnston said a “serious conversation” about funding was needed. Support for universities was proportionately 18 per cent lower in Northern Ireland than in England, and 12 per cent lower than in Scotland, according to the vice-chancellor.
“If we continue to absorb cuts without any impact in terms of what we do, we will destroy the quality and reputation of both universities and in particular of Queen’s,” he said.
“My message is that we need to start a very serious conversation about funding higher education properly and start it quickly because…Queen’s has now come to a very important inflection point in its history. It is no longer being supported by the public purse to the level that it needs and therefore we have to become masters of our own destiny; we can no longer rely on government to fund us.”
Queen’s, which is a member of the Russell Group of research intensive universities, had already had its funding cut by 16 per cent over four years.
Ulster University is also expected to cut student numbers, but is yet to confirm its plans. Earlier this year it said it would shut a number of undergraduate courses in response to the funding cuts.
A DEL spokeswoman said the department had “made internal efficiencies and ceased any unjustifiable subsidies” but still faced an “unprecedented” 12.4 per cent cut in its budget for 2015-16.
“It is a regrettable situation that our universities are contracting at a time when we should be investing more in them to ensure a steady supply of highly skilled individuals for current and future potential employers,” she said.
“Recognising the economic and social importance of investing in skills, it is the intention of the department and the minister to achieve a sustainable funding model going forward.”