UK universities plan to ‘axe 600 jobs’ amid sector-wide uncertainty

UCU figures on job cut plans in 2017 reveal scholars’ vulnerability in wake of Brexit and TEF

May 18, 2017
University of Manchester
Source: iStock

UK scholars have been warned that they may be at increasing risk of redundancy as new figures show that 572 academic positions have been earmarked to be cut since the start of 2017.

Figures released to Times Higher Education by the University and College Union show that 10 UK universities have announced job cuts this year. Overall, UK universities have announced plans for 572 academic redundancies this year, according to the UCU.

The University of Manchester, the UK’s largest university in terms of students on campus, was responsible for the biggest chunk of those redundancies after announcing on 10 May plans for 171 job losses, citing financial uncertainties caused by a range of factors including Brexit and the teaching excellence framework (TEF).

Manchester is closely followed by Manchester Metropolitan University, which earlier this year announced that its Crewe campus, which is home to 160 academic staff, would close in August 2019.

Meanwhile, in addition to those confirmed numbers, Aberystwyth University has said that it will cut jobs by reopening its voluntary severance and early retirement schemes, but has not specified a figure. In a statement, the institution cited “increasingly intense competition for students, a demographic decrease in the current pool of 18-year-olds, rising costs” and “uncertainties caused by Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, as well as tighter visa regulations for international students".

Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, said that there were three main factors for the recent spike in announcements about job cuts: the “level of uncertainty” in the sector due in part to Brexit; the TEF; and the introduction of student number controls, which has led to large drops in student numbers at some institutions.

“The TEF is going to have an impact on management decisions and I think that this is perhaps the start of the evidence of that,” he said.

“Maybe [some universities] think they’re too research focused and not enough teaching focused and they just need to rebalance things in some ways.”

Mr Hillman added: “A more marketised system is more likely to increase the pace of change in the sector. I think that’s what we’re seeing.”

Martyn Moss, UCU regional official for the North West, said that Manchester’s announcement was “pretty significant for the whole of the sector” and the changes announced by both Mancunian institutions were “linked to the TEF”.

Manchester’s redundancies notice suggests that “there is potentially an attempt to shake out more senior academics” from the institution and replace them with cheaper, more junior teaching staff, he said. 

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Print headline: ‘Perfect storm’ to claim 600 jobs

Reader's comments (2)

Could the editor of the Higher explain why the Higher refuses to publish lists of those academics and other staff members threatened with job cuts? To reveal which UK universities practice these measures would shed more light on Higher Education in Britain than most of what appears here.
I would imagine that publishing such a list would be like blaming the victim. I do not understand whose interest it would serve. Surely it is enough to know which universities are threathening to cut staff.

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