The interim Vice-Chancellor of Bangor University, Professor Graham Upton, has confirmed that he will press ahead with the ‘restructuring exercise’ at Bangor University that could result in cuts to courses, departments and redundancies.
Professor Upton has replaced Vice-Chancellor John G. Hughes, who retired at the end of December.
Staff at Bangor University staff were warned of the need to address ‘financial challenges‘ in October last year and £5m in cuts were announced – with compulsory redundancies not being ruled out. This was followed by a letter to staff in several departments in December, who were informed that their jobs were ‘at risk’. Academics and lecturers were believed to be among the 50-60 staff who could potentially face redundancy.
Plans have also been revealed to close the University’s Chemistry Department, ending all undergraduate and postgraduate programmes, potentially resulting in the loss of 15 academic and 3 technical staff.
Other affected schools are believed to include: Law, Music & Media, Business, Languages Literature & Linguistics, History Philosophy & Social Sciences, Education & Human Development, Medical Sciences, Sport Health & Exercise Sciences, Health Sciences.
In an email to university staff, Professor Upton has blamed falling student numbers as the primary cause for the financial shortfall. He said: “Along with other universities in Wales we have recently experienced recruitment difficulties as a result of the removal of the cap on student numbers in England, made all the worse by a demographic dip in the number of school leavers, and we have fallen well short of our recruitment targets over the past two years.
“In a context where the funding of universities is almost entirely dependent on student fees this has created serious financial problems for us and the need for what is the second major restructuring exercise in two years. I am aware that this has had a major impact on staff and student morale and motivation which I fully understand and recognise as a challenge for me to address.
“I obviously take up my appointment in the middle of this second restructuring exercise. As I made clear in meetings before Christmas this is a process that has been approved by the University Council as an essential step in ensuring the short and long-term sustainability of the university. It is not something I can change. However, it is a highly pressured process which is running to a very tight timetable and as you will know, following representations from the Trade Unions we have agreed to extend the consultation period to 1st February.
“Further, I would like to reassure staff that no decisions have yet been made on the business cases that are subject to this consultation and that all feedback received during the consultation period will be carefully considered by the Executive in making the final decisions. I therefore encourage you to use all available means to have your say during the consultation period.
“Looking ahead, my primary objective over coming months must be to ensure we meet our financial targets for the current year but also that we develop balanced and healthy budgets for next year and into the longer term. Underpinning that we will need to sort out our recruitment problems. Unfortunately, home and EU applications for next year are down on last year and an equally important priority must be to generate more applications and to ensure we maximise our conversion of applications into enrolments. Increasing our international numbers could also help compensate for other shortfalls.”
Over one thousand students are expected to attend a protest against the proposed cuts on Friday 18th January.