Staff pay the price in jobs

August 22, 1997

Cambridge University expects to shed about 60 academic jobs by the turn of the century as part of a plan to cut Pounds 1.5 million from the annual wage bill.

It was hoped that the introduction of students' tuition fees next year would bring additional money into the sector quickly and make the cuts unnecessary. But the revelation this week that the Government plans to pocket the extra cash will make such cuts inevitable across the sector, said David Livesey, secretary of the General Board at Cambridge.

The cuts are conceded in the university's new strategic plan for 1997 to 2001, submitted to the Higher Education Funding Council for England this month, and are based on current financial forecasts.

Cambridge was hoping that the plans to charge students for tuition would bring much-needed resources. "The (staff cutting) strategy to be adopted will need to take account of the outcome of the Dearing inquiry, and in particular whether there are changes in the financial position of universities," the strategic plan said.

Dr Livesey was shocked to learn that the Government's plans would bring no immediate changes in the financial position of institutions. "If student fees have been introduced to reduce Government expenditure, it will do nothing for the universities. The Government should reflect on consultation in advance of any funding decisions. Additional money is absolutely vital."

The spectre of institutions like Cambridge charging their own "top-up fees" in addition to students' fees has now returned, despite the Government's opposition. Dr Livesey would not be drawn on Cambridge's plans, but he said: "I would say that you need to ask the secretary of state what his position is on top-up fees. Dearing established that higher education of quality, as achieved at Cambridge, was in the public interest and deserved to be appropriately funded."

The planned staff cuts were a "cause of concern" said Joan Whitehead, Cambridge's representative for the Association of University Teachers. "They should come without redundancies," she said. "But the knock-on effect is that everyone's workload will increase."

Interview with Gill Evans, page 4

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