Wales' biggest universities facing huge cost cutting as thousands of staff offered voluntary redundancy

-Credit: (Image: Richard Williams/WalesOnline)
-Credit: (Image: Richard Williams/WalesOnline)


Cardiff University has written to all staff this week offering them voluntary redundancy saying the funding model for universities “is broken”. Swansea, Aberystwyth, Cardiff Met and the University of South Wales have also recently launched voluntary severance schemes with fears that hundreds of jobs will go and calculations that deficits will run into many tens of millions if action isn’t taken.

Aberystwyth confirmed it is looking at savings of £15m and Cardiff £35m. The impending job losses come as the body representing the sector, Universities Wales, warned there were questions over the long-term sustainability of all universities.

Vice chancellors have been warning for some time that cuts were looming, despite a rise in tuition fees announced in February. Universities Wales said “tough decisions” had to be made and “The long-term sustainability of the sector is now one of our most urgent, pressing issues”. You can read the warnings from Cardiff University's Vice Chancellor here

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Professor Wendy Larner, Cardiff University Vice Chancellor Professsor Wendy Larner
Professor Wendy Larner, Cardiff University Vice Chancellor Professsor Wendy Larner -Credit:Jared Gray

Universities said costs are rising faster than income, there is ongoing uncertainty around international student recruitment, and a funding system “that no longer covers the cost of teaching home students or research and innovation”.

Cardiff University Vice Chancellor Wendy Larner wrote to all staff on June 5 to announce, like most other Welsh universities, a voluntary severance scheme. That follows a recruitment freeze in May in which she emailed staff warning: “Our financial position is not good. If we don’t take further action, then this year we stand to experience a £35m deficit, and we expect that deficit to be significantly higher next year.”

A Cardiff University spokesperson said: “Like many Welsh and UK universities, we have announced a time-limited voluntary severance scheme. This is an entirely voluntary scheme and there is no obligation on any member of staff to apply or on the university to accept an application.

“When considering applications, we will be prioritising limiting the impact on student experience and the workload of remaining colleagues. Our vice chancellor has been clear that she believes that the funding model for universities is broken.

“As a result, all universities are rethinking the ways in which they operate to secure their long term financial futures. She has also been clear, there is no need for anyone to worry about our longer-term financial circumstances – we are able to weather the storm short-term - but we cannot see a situation where we continue to report deficit budgets. Alongside other measures designed to reduce our costs, this will help to secure the university’s long term financial future.”

Swansea University said its voluntary severance scheme for staff is now open to all staff, with decisions made on an individual, case by case basis.

Aberystwyth confirmed it’s looking at £15m cuts but said it has not put a number on how many jobs may go.

The University of South Wales said it is looking at ways to “invest to remain competitive” and has “introduced a voluntary exit scheme for colleagues, which will assist the university to make some financial savings”.

Cardiff Metropolitan University said: “Like so many universities across the UK, Cardiff Metropolitan University is experiencing financial challenges, driven predominantly by declining numbers of international students and the impact of inflation on our income, particularly tuition fees. We have introduced a voluntary severance scheme, which will help ensure that we are well positioned for a successful and sustainable future and can continue to deliver a high-quality student experience.”

Bangor and the University of Wales Trinity St David said they did not have redundancies planned. Wrexham was contacted for comment.

The cost of going to university in Wales is going up from September. Undergraduate university tuition fees are being raised to £9,250-a-year in line with the cost in England and the rest of the UK, the Welsh Government announced in February.

Grants currently available to postgraduate Master’s students will also be replaced fully by repayable student loans. That change will apply to new students in 2024/25.

University vice chancellors in Wales had long lobbied for higher tuition fees, saying £9,000 a year did not cover their costs and put them at a competitive disadvantage with institutions across the border who brought in more money for fees. But it seems even this will not be enough to stem mass job losses and cuts.

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