Amid the gloom of the recession, the threat of strikes and the pain of redundancies, a vice-chancellor has offered a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel by promising a recruitment spree.
Edward Acton, who was appointed vice-chancellor of the University of East Anglia last week after acting in the post for four months, told Times Higher Education that he intended to expand UEA's faculty numbers by 50 full-time staff in the next year.
"We are planning a significant expansion of academic capacity while bearing down on non-staff costs and making administrative support as efficient as it can be," he said.
With ambitions to become one of the top 20 universities in the UK, Professor Acton said UEA would be "steering only towards three- and four-star research and the equivalent delicious quality in terms of education".
"We will make it abundantly clear that we will reward, and richly reward, quality of output and that we will focus resources - time being the key resource - to support research," he said.
"We envisage that our lectureships involving research will be extremely attractive."
A third of the jobs will be "full, red-blooded" teaching and research posts, and the rest will be a combination of one-year postdoctoral positions and posts designed to release high-performing researchers from other duties.
They will be concentrated in science and health research at the Norwich Research Park - a collaboration between the university, Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and three independent research centres.
Professor Acton said he was "aiming to make Norwich science an indispensable part of the British higher education map".
The university will also invest in creative writing, art and art history, media and film studies, and international development studies. However, research in modern languages will be scaled back, although Professor Acton said there were no plans to "disengage" from language teaching.
While the university has a modest surplus of about £4 million on a turnover of £160 million, the vice-chancellor said the hefty investments it had made in student residences in recent years had left it in a strong position to invest in staff.
Professor Acton has been acting vice-chancellor of UEA since January, when the university announced that his predecessor, Bill Macmillan, was going to take early retirement.
Professor Macmillan joined the university in September 2006 and is due to retire at the end of this summer term, although he remains on leave.