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University Of Manchester To Sack 171 Staff Amid Brexit Concerns

Losses come as university points to threats to future income, while union bosses criticise ‘short-term cuts that will cause long-term damage’
The University of Manchester has reserves totalling almost £1.5bn, of which £430m is cash.
Britain’s largest university has set out plans to axe 171 jobs, mostly academic positions in the faculties of arts, languages, biology, medicine and business.

The University of Manchester blames new government legislation and Brexit as major factors threatening its future income and says it needs to “invest in our strategic priorities”.

But the University and College Union (UCU), which represents lecturers and researchers, said Manchester’s finances are in good health and that the university is just making excuses to make short-term cuts that will cause long-term damage.

Sally Hunt, the UCU general secretary, said: ‘We see no economic rationale for jobs cuts on such an enormous scale. The University of Manchester is in a strong financial position and we believe it is using recent government policy changes and Brexit as an excuse to make short-term cuts that will cause long-term damage.

“It takes a lot longer to rebuild a department than it does to dismantle one. If the university wishes to maintain its position as one of our leading institutions it needs to rethink plans to sack large numbers of professors, lecturers and support staff to create what it has called ‘financial headroom’.”

According to data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency collated by the UCU, the university recorded a £59.7m surplus for the year in 2015/16, after a £19.6m deficit the year before (2014/15). The university’s financial statement revealed it has reserves totalling almost £1.5bn, of which £430m is cash.

The university wants to cut 140 academic jobs and 31 professional support roles, according to the UCU.

Academic job losses will be concentrated in three departments, the union said. In the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures, 35 posts will be cut from a pool of 104 whose jobs are at risk. In the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health, 65 academic jobs are to go with 627 people at risk, the UCU claims.

At the Alliance Manchester Business School, which was the recipient of a £15m donation in October 2014 from Lord David Alliance who described it as a “world-class centre for business education”, 40 jobs are to be axed with 104 jobs at risk, the UCU said.

The 31 professional support roles will come from the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences, the National Composites Certification and Evaluation Faculty, the Photon Science Institute and the Directorate of Finance, according to the union.

Manchester University is the UK’s largest single-site university with almost 40,000 students and more than 12,000 staff, including almost 7,000 academics and researchers. It has three Nobel laureates on the payroll – physics professors Sirs Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov, who invented graphene, and Sir John Sulston. It was voted fifth best UK university and 35th best university in the world by the Academic Ranking of World Universities last year.

The university said that the uncertainties included greater global competition, reductions in public funding, exchange rate fluctuations, the potential decline in student numbers and research income, new private providers, the new Teaching Excellence Framework, the uncertainties of Brexit and further increases in costs arising from pensions and inflation.

A University of Manchester spokesperson said: “The University of Manchester has a bold ambition to be a world leading institution, with a reputation based on academic excellence. In order to meet this ambition, we must improve the quality of our research and student experience in some areas and ensure the financial sustainability of the university. Realising this ambition will require a capacity to invest in our strategic priorities.

“We have detailed plans for significant growth in funds from a range of activities, but we will also need to make cost savings. On 3 May the board of governors approved proposals from the senior staff of the University to commence consultation with the trade unions in relation to reductions of up to 171 posts.
“The university proposes to open a voluntary severance scheme for staff at risk, to avoid the need for compulsory redundancy if at all possible.”

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