Vice-Chancellor's statement on the launch of Oxford Brookes’ strategic transformation programme

Oxford Brookes University logo

In recent months, I have communicated with staff, students and supporters of Oxford Brookes about the financial challenges that are being felt here at the University, and at many other UK institutions. These are 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. International recruitment is also becoming increasingly challenging for UK universities, and possible changes to the post-study work visa are looking likely, which, following the already impactful changes to dependent visa rules, will compound these challenges further. 

In recent weeks, the Vice-Chancellor’s Group has been considering how the financial sustainability of the University can be protected going forward, through a financial sustainability plan that puts us in a position to grow our income, manage our costs and maximises our potential to realise the ambitions of the University’s 2035 Strategy. One strand of our financial sustainability plan is the strategic transformation programme. Earlier today I shared details of this transformation programme with Oxford Brookes staff and students.

The University’s strategic transformation programme will be delivered in two waves:

Wave 1 (May-October 2024) will deliver a new structure for the University, comprising two faculties rather than the current four. In broad terms, Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS) and Oxford Brookes Business School (OBBS) will combine with the School of Arts to form one faculty; the other schools from Technology, Design and Environment (TDE) will combine with Health and Life Sciences (HLS) to form a second faculty. 

As part of Wave 1, senior management posts in the faculties will be aligned to fit the new two-faculty structure. As a result, 20 staff members have been identified as being at risk of redundancy; these staff members have already been informed and are being supported. The staff members affected will be offered Voluntary Severance in the first instance. 

Wave 2 (November 2024-July 2026) will see the restructuring of professional services (‘non-academic’ staff), to realign the University’s support functions around the new University structure. This will take place wherever possible through natural turnover of staff and targeted voluntary severance. After this, the University will review its portfolio of programmes to ensure our offering remains fit for the future needs of students. 

We will be holding a series of engagement events for University staff over the next fortnight, to explain more about the transformation programme and answer their questions. We recognise that this will be an unsettling period for all colleagues, and we will be providing a range of support including counselling and financial coaching. 

I deeply regret that this announcement means that a number of senior colleagues will be at risk within faculties. However, in announcing the transformation programme, we are taking decisive action to address the challenges being faced across the Higher Education sector and put the University on a firm footing for the future. The vast majority of students are unlikely to experience any immediate changes as a result of the announcement.

We will ensure that any future changes to staffing do not compromise students’ ability to continue and complete their studies. Staff will ensure that students continue to be taught to the same high standards and that support services remain in place. 

Professor Alistair Fitt