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University of Kent to make redundancies after announcing likely financial deficit

By Anna MacSwan

Redundancies are to be made at the University of Kent in the wake of "significant challenges" which are likely to lead to a financial deficit this year.

In a letter from Vice-Chancellor Professor Karen Cox, staff were told yesterday that a voluntary severance scheme will be launched in April with a view to making savings on staffing costs.

It is not yet clear how many jobs could be at risk or which departments will be affected.

The University of Kent is facing "multiple external challenges"
The University of Kent is facing "multiple external challenges"

However, Professor Cox said the University needs to "take action" as it faces multiple external challenges, including difficulties attracting new students in a more competitive environment and rising costs, which mean that this year it will have operated at a loss.

Her letter also cites a review of post-18 education funding and finance, which is widely expected to lower the maximum annual amount universities can charge for tuition fees to £6,500.

"There is no doubt our University has considerable strengths - a strong academic community, excellent teaching and an outstanding student experience," she continued.

"However, we are facing significant challenges across the higher education sector at the moment, in particular increasingly competitive student recruitment and a review of post 18 education funding and finance.

Professor Karen Cox
Professor Karen Cox

"These external challenges are having a significant impact on many universities across the UK as well as affecting us here at Kent.

"These challenges are not going away and we have to take action to address this. As a University we have much to build on and we must not forget this, but we do now have to make some significant savings as well as changes to the way we do things."

The announcement follows plans revealed in December to cut as many as 40 hourly-paid lecturer jobs across the university's Canterbury and Medway campuses in a move to provide a "firmer guarantee of academic continuity".

The University of Kent's Medway campus
The University of Kent's Medway campus

As part of its plan to deal with funding challenges, the university says that all schools and departments have been working on plans to make savings over the next three to four years and identify areas for growing income.

It will also be reviewing programmes to ensure it is "offering what students want" and investing in marketing and student recruitment teams.

The university says it aims to offer among the best education and student experiences in the UK and undertake research "of the highest standards", but faces a "challenging and increasingly competitive environment".

A spokesman said: "The University of Kent is a leading UK university offering excellent teaching and an outstanding student experience. Our graduates are among the most employable, with over 95% either in work or further study within six months of graduation. Some of our research ranks amongst the best internationally and new initiatives, such as the Kent and Medway Medical School and the Institute for Cultural and Creative Industries, will strengthen us for the future.

'Whilst our refreshed strategy sets out a road map for change, development and sustained growth, we have seen our costs rise and our income flat-lining...' - university spokesman

"However, we are in a challenging and increasingly competitive environment, and our refreshed university strategy sets out a clear ambition to offer one of the best education and student experiences in the UK, and undertake research and innovation of the highest standards by 2025.

"Whilst our refreshed strategy sets out a road map for change, development and sustained growth, we have seen our costs rise and our income flat-lining like many in the sector, largely because the undergraduate fee has not been increased in line with inflation by the government. This is something we need to manage.

"We have already put a number of plans in action, and across the University we have been working to make savings as well as identifying areas where we can grow our income. We are also looking to make savings on our staffing costs and will be launching a voluntary severance scheme in the near future to help achieve this.

"In addition we are also looking at how we structure our activities, ensuring we continue to improve our student experience. We have already shared our initial proposals with our staff and will continue to engage with staff, students and union representatives on these proposals, and revise when appropriate.

"We are also fully committed to supporting our staff through the process and have invited them to feedback any specific concerns.

"Any changes we make will be approved through our usual governance structures."

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