Job losses in universities?

In England the university sector is currently bracing itself for further significant budget cuts. In his recent Budget, the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, announced that the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (along with other departments) would have its financial allocation cut by 25 per cent. Now the University and College Union (which represents academics) has calculated that a 25 per cent cut in the higher education budget would lead to at least 22,584 job losses, out of a total of some 262,000 employees across the university sector.

In Ireland as in the UK (indeed more than in the UK), salaries make up a very large proportion of overall expenditure. Therefore it is difficult to absorb cuts in government allocations without reducing the number of those employed in the sector. So far – though not without difficulty – universities have managed to maintain programmes despite significant cuts in budgets and staffing (the latter achieved without any compulsory redundancies). It does however need to be understood that the capacity of the sector to manage this has come to its limit. I believe that all the university presidents in Ireland are anxious not to reduce staffing further. However, further significant cuts cannot easily be handled without some significant pain. It is time to decide where in the country’s priorities higher education stands.

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3 Comments on “Job losses in universities?”

  1. Jilly Says:

    It’s probably worth pointing out some disparities between the UK system and ours: one of the most significant being their staff/student ratios. UK universities have significantly better ratios than Irish ones.

    A couple of days ago I was speaking to a senior member of a large department at a major Scottish university. Casual conversation revealed that his department has 30 full-time members of academic staff. The equivalent department in my own university has fewer than 20 members of full-time academic staff, and for almost exactly the same numbers of students.

    This is not an argument in favour of job losses in UK universities, I must stress. But it does indicate that Irish universities have little more to ‘give’ in terms of staff/student ratios. If UK universities move towards similar staff/student ratios, they will suffer from the same problems we’re currently dealing with in our teaching. If Irish universities worsen their staff/student ratios any more, they may as well stop trying to teach undergraduates…

    • Ros Says:

      I couldn’t agree more Jilly. Coupled with the seemingly endless paper trail that is now required before we even teach anything, the worsening of staff/student ratios will only serve to store up a whole lot of trouble for the future. Also, when fees are officially re-introduced (we all know they never really went away), customer satisfaction will be yet another factor in the mix. There just seems to be no forward planning, which is evidenced by the unwillingness of the government to engage with the third level sector.

  2. Vincent Says:

    You would have to say that the current lot are a bit fixated with actuarial calculations and if one owned a good bit of the UK on 30/60/90 year leases who could blame them.
    But actuarial prophecy is of no more accurate than a cast of the bones like with the rest of us.
    However, while there is no active management of the Land estate within both the UK and Eire at State level we will be back in this crap within a generation.

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