A statement from the Vice-Chancellor on the University’s cost savings proposals

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Like many institutions across the sector, the University is experiencing increasing financial challenges due to a range of external factors, such as inflation, flat student fees for UK undergraduates for over a decade, and increases in staff pay and employer pension contributions.

As a result, we took the difficult decision to begin a consultation in November about reducing staff posts in some specific academic areas, and to make other, pay-related staff cost savings across the University.

As part of the proposals announced in November, I announced a Voluntary Severance (VS) scheme for staff within some specific academic areas. The University received nine applications for VS from staff and all were accepted. As a result, a number of staff were removed from being at risk of redundancy before the festive break. However, despite these staff departures, the savings achieved as a result of VS applications have not been sufficient to achieve the University’s required cost savings of £2 million per annum. 

The staff consultation period ended on 17 January and the University’s Vice-Chancellor’s Group met earlier this week to carefully consider the staff responses, as well as feedback from students and other stakeholders within and outside the University, and reach a final decision on how the University will find the cost savings it needs. We are grateful to all those who responded.

The University received many suggestions from staff, students and external stakeholders for non-pay cost savings or revenue generating activities. The Vice-Chancellor’s Group has discussed them all and regretfully concluded that none of them could achieve the level of savings required by the University in the necessary timeframe.

We regret that a small number of staff will now progress into a compulsory redundancy process. However, in some academic areas where staff reductions have been achieved through VS or voluntary reductions in working hours, the redundancy process will be suspended whilst a further VS scheme open to additional academic areas tests whether the remaining savings can be achieved through voluntary means.

Whilst I deeply regret the need to make any reductions in staff numbers, and that compulsory redundancies cannot be avoided for all affected staff, I hope that this decision demonstrates our willingness to listen to feedback and to make adaptations to our approach which reduce the impact on staff wherever possible.

Closure of the University’s Music and Mathematics programmes

During the consultation, the Vice-Chancellor’s Group received a large volume of correspondence regarding our proposal to close the Music and Mathematics programmes at Oxford Brookes, as well as petition signatures. 

The last thing that any Vice-Chancellor or leadership team within a University wants to do is to stop teaching a valued subject. We began the consultation on these proposals because it is our responsibility, when savings cannot be made in other ways, to protect the financial sustainability of the University by considering the future of programmes that do not attract sufficient numbers of students to enable them to make the necessary contribution to the University’s overall finances.

Regretfully, the Vice-Chancellor’s Group has therefore decided that the programme closure process will continue for Music and for Mathematics. There will be reductions in the use of Associate Lecturers in both programmes, but the salaried staff in Mathematics will remain in employment, teaching Mathematics within other programmes. At-risk staff on the Music programme who have not volunteered for VS and who are not needed to support the ‘teach out’ of the course in the coming years will now progress into a compulsory redundancy process.

I would like to emphasise that we remain committed to all of our current students, and will ensure that changes to staffing do not preclude our students from continuing and completing successfully on their programme of study. We will continue to update the student FAQs webpage to ensure timely and consistent information is made available, as well as access to our Student Support Services. 

I recognise that this will continue to be a very challenging time for colleagues, particularly for those on the affected programmes. However difficult, these decisions have been taken in the best interests of the University going forward. We will continue to seek ways to mitigate the impact of this decision on staff, and to offer support to all those directly impacted.

Professor Alistair Fitt