Image: Wikimedia Commons/ Mike Peel

Universities cutting thousands of academics on short-term contracts

Universities across the UK are to cut the jobs of thousands of academics on short-term contracts because of the economic uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Higher education institutions are to drop thousands of hourly posts and let temporary contracts expire, according to the Financial Times.

This will add to the UK’s future unemployment rate and reduce the capabilities of academic departments to provide adequate teaching and support to students.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IfS) think tank stated that the decline in foreign students studying at UK universities could lead to a 7.5% loss in yearly income over the next four years.

Academics have argued that temporary contract workers being made redundant will reduce the quality of teaching and increase the workload of staff that remain.

Vicky Blake, president of the University and College Union (UCU) representing university staff, stated cutting non-permanent staff meant universities were “pulling the rug out from under their own institutions”.

Ms Blake also stated that the “sector was propped up by casualised labour” and that universities were letting go of staff like “balloons into the sky”.

According to the Higher Education Statistics Agency, 33% of academic staff were on fixed-term contracts in 2017-18.

Staff at the University of Manchester received an email outlining £270 million of losses, leading to potential job and pay cuts, according to Times Higher Education.

The email from Manchester vice-chancellor Nancy Rothwell stated that the university faced a “significant loss of income” because of the pandemic.

With pay representing more than 50% of Manchester University’s annual spending, “reducing pay costs” to combat the annual loss of income between 15 and 25% was a “key part” in the universities plan to cut their overall spending.

The unprecedented nature of the Covid-19 pandemic means that decisive measures have to be taken to secure future experiences for students

– Roehampton University Spokesperson

The announcement raised concern from many staff members at Manchester University staff, due to their “immense effort” to carry on teaching during the pandemic going largely unnoticed.

Job losses are also expected at Cardiff University as a result of £168 million lost income due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Cardiff vice-chancellor Colin Riordan stated that although his aim was to protect jobs and avoid job cuts, they couldn’t be ruled out, according to Wales Online.

Riordan also stated that the university was speaking to unions about salary reductions on a temporary basis, saying that all “possibilities” had to be considered.

Cardiff University needs to make a saving of £50 million in 2021, leading to a recruitment freeze for “all but the most essential, business-critical posts” to be introduced.

Times Higher Education also reported that University of Roehampton is to cut 70 jobs in order to mitigate the financial impact of coronavirus.

The university is to introduce a voluntary severance scheme for permanent staff due to a reduction in income of £31 million, which counts for more than 20% of their total income.

The scheme should allow Roehampton University to return to operating with a small surplus by the 2022-2023 academic year.

A spokesperson for Roehampton stated that the “unprecedented nature of the Covid-19 pandemic” means that “decisive measures” have to be taken to “secure future experiences” for students.

The measures included “acceleration of work to generate new sources of income, such as new academic programmes; staff recruitment freeze; suspension of the senior and professorial pay review; voluntary severance and a voluntary flexible employment scheme; immediate salary reduction for the vice-chancellor and most senior staff”.

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