Warning of job losses at Northumbria University as staff budget faces £12.5m cut

Workers at Northumbria University were told the budget for staffing faces being cut by £12.5million. Credit: PA

A North East university has warned job losses could be on the way as it tries to cut costs.

Staff at Northumbria University were told on Monday 12 February that the budget for staffing faces being cut by £12.5m.

The university is one of Newcastle's major employers, with around 3,000 staff. 

In an email, vice-chancellor and chief executive Professor Andy Long wrote that savings are needed “in order to ensure we are able to cover our costs”, but pledged to do “all that we can” to avoid compulsory redundancies.

He blamed a “volatile” market for recruiting students from overseas and the Government making it “more difficult” to do so, saying the university’s income was projected to be £10 million lower in the next academic year as a result, as well as pressures caused by inflation.

However, in an email seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Prof Long insisted that the university is in a “very strong” financial position.

A spokesperson said: “While Northumbria University’s underlying financial position remains very strong, along with most higher education institutions the current financial outlook is weaker than anticipated.

"This is a consequence of a combination of fixed home undergraduate fees, difficulties around recruitment of international students, and the ongoing impact of inflation. 

“To remain competitive and to create room for investment in our future strategic plans, the university must address its cost base through changes to staff and non-staff budgets.

"In doing so we will ensure we protect the student experience while supporting our staff through this challenging period. We will do all that we can to avoid compulsory redundancies while we go through this process.”

In his email, Prof Long said that £16m worth of savings had already been made this year and a further £4m of spending reductions already identified in non-staffing areas.

However, he added that the “working assumption is that we now need to reduce our current staff costs by a further £12.5m from an overall budget of £225m”.

The vice chancellor said that Northumbria University would seek to increase its recruitment of home students to around 6,000 per year, from a current 5,400, because of concerns about the international student market.

He told staff that the university will have approximately 700 fewer students on its Newcastle campus in 2024/25 than it had five years earlier, while during which time its workforce had grown by 500.

Prof Long also highlighted higher energy prices and a “further £4m strain on our budgets” from the Teachers Pension Scheme as factors behind the savings plan.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We are focused on striking the right balance between acting decisively to tackle net migration, which we are clear is far too high, and attracting the brightest students to study at our universities.

"We are continuing to provide significant financial support of nearly £6 billion per year to the higher education sector, plus more than £10 billion per year in tuition fee loans.

"The Office for Students’ latest report also stated that the overall financial position of the sector was sound, recognising that there is variation amongst providers.”

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