Student shortage leads to job cuts

April 21, 2000

Napier University fears it will lose up to Pounds 3 million in the coming year because of problems in student recruitment and retention, writes Olga Wojtas.

It is aiming to shed 55 of its 1,800 posts in a bid to make

savings.

Napier has 600 fewer students than planned and believes it may under-enrol by almost 400 in the coming academic year. This could mean its income dropping by between Pounds 1.6 million and Pounds 3 million.

The university won the second highest increase, 3.5 per cent,

in this year's Scottish Higher Education Funding Council allocations, for boosting part-time student numbers and improving research. But while it has done well in widening access, it has also suffered from poor retention rates.

A university spokeswoman said Napier was "refocusing" following a review of subjects most in demand by both students and employers. It recently announced that there will be no new intakes to physics and chemistry degrees from the autumn. There are also likely to be reduced engineering options.

"We've got quite a few good new courses coming up, such as sports science, marine and freshwater biology, toxicology, wildlife biology, conservation and health science. And as we can't do everything, those subjects for which there is least demand are being dropped so we can refocus resources," the spokeswoman said.

"Our refocusing exercise will lead to a small reduction, about 2.5 per cent, in the overall numbers employed at Napier. We hope to achieve this through enhanced voluntary early retirement and a voluntary scheme aimed at preparing staff for early retirement through part-time working, options that have been offered to nearly a third of the university's staff."

Marian Healy, further and higher education official of the Educational Institute of Scotland, said it was good practice to send the voluntary severance proposals to a large number of staff, some of whom would welcome the prospect of a career change or early retirement.

"We will be discussing the difficulties with Napier and will be doing so on the basis of mitigating any job losses."

Napier is expected to offer

early retirement with up to five years' enhancement to all staff aged over 50. This age group

will also have the option of the "preparation for retirement scheme", allowing them to work part time for three years before retirement.

Napier will seek support for its restructuring plans from Shefc's recently announced Pounds 10 million grant to help institutions with staff restructuring.

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