UEL could be plunged into fresh financial crisis

July 10, 1998

NEW cash crises could hit the University of East London next year because it is "seriously adrift" from target levels of recruitment, an independent consultant has warned, writes Harriet Swain.

Interim figures from the report, commissioned by university managers, show while applications have held steady, the number of students who have accepted places at the university so far is down on last year in almost every faculty.

Some social sciences and economics departments face falls in demand from students of more than 40 per cent.

The university, which under-recruited by 400 this year, needs to increase admissions by 600 in 1998-99 to reach financial targets.

This year's shortfall in student numbers has already led to cuts of Pounds 2.4 million and 80 redundancies, following 80 redundancies the previous year.

Lecturers' union Natfhe is balloting on industrial action over three compulsory academic redundancies, which, it claims, are "easy targets". All are women, one is from an ethnic minority and one has disabilities. A Natfhe spokesman said: "The union is against redundancies in principal but considers these sackings to be particularly shocking."

The union, which supported a student occupation of university buildings last month in protest at the cuts, blames poor management for the problems. Its newsletter states: "We believe that UEL has a future - but not under a regime which is steering us towards an iceberg visible to all but senior management itself."

The consultant, Mike Slade, a former UEL law professor commissioned by the university to produce the report, accused deans of neglecting part-time recruitment and advised all faculties to focus on specific projects that may boost recruitment during clearing.

He said his remarks had been strong as an attempt to "key up" staff in preparation for the clearing period. But he added: "Some things are a cause of concern if we do nothing about them".

But a university spokeswoman said the university had been hit by problems facing all institutions. It had suffered particularly from government cuts and fears about next year's tuition fees because it took a large number of poorer and mature students. "We are trying to target things more closely and to give more information about how fees and loans are going to affect them," she said.

She said the university had expanded considerably over the past 12 years and was hoping to update what it offered through the new Docklands campus, due to open in 1999.

"We are not expecting any more redundancies next year," she said. "But it is conceivable that if we don't recruit terribly well it might have to happen."

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