Target failure forces job cuts

April 3, 1998

DOZENS of posts are to be axed, threatening course closures, at the University of East London as it struggles to balance its budget in the face of under-recruitment.

Staff heard on Tuesday this week that up to 35 academic and 43 support posts may go in order to cut Pounds 2.4 million from next academic year's budget. Hardest hit will be the maths department, losing up to nine academics, and professional nursing studies which may lose five. The university refused to say whether these departments would remain viable.

More than 80 posts were axed last year but the university said that more cuts were needed in the face of this year's student recruitment problems. UEL undershot its 1997-98 target by the equivalent of 400 full-time students. The actual number lost is far higher because of the number of part-timers.

As a result, the Higher Education Funding Council has already reduced UEL's maximum aggregate student number, effectively the number of home students it can recruit, by 200 next year.

The university will have its grant reduced next year if it fails to reach the new recruitment target.

University managers are worried that tuition fees, to be introduced for all new students this autumn, could make it harder to recruit. UEL prides itself on educating students from lower income and ethnic minority families who may be deterred by the extra costs as fees come in and grants go.

Vice-chancellor Frank Gould said: "We have a higher proportion than average of low income group people and we do not know whether they will be affected in terms of take-up so we are being prudent. We also have a lot of students from south-east Asia. Recruitment there is bound to be hit because of the economic crisis in the region."

The university also faces a further 1 per cent efficiency gain next year, making it necessary to cut spending by around Pounds 500,000. It has had to take Pounds 4 million from reserves to pay increased costs of academic staff pensions.

Union representatives are alarmed by the suddenness and scale of the proposed redundancies Lecturers' union Natfhe says that the April 30 deadline for voluntary redundancy applications allows staff too little time. The union will oppose compulsory redundancies.

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