THE University of Aberdeen has announced plans to cut 150 jobs as it seeks to balance its books in a “challenging funding environment.”
Voluntary severance and early retirement packages are being offered to its 3,000 staff as the university seeks to reduce its budget by at least £10.5 million over the coming months.
Staffing costs currently account for 59.5 per cent of its budget, higher than the national average of 53.3 per cent.
It said job losses were necessary to maintain and grow its position in “an increasingly competitive international market”.
Union leaders said the job losses twinned with a reduction in research funding represents “a worrying time for the sector.”
A university spokeswoman said: “We know our staff are our greatest asset. However, it is also true that they form the largest part of our costs.
‘This means that we have less flexibility to react to new challenges and opportunities compared to other higher education institutions. It is clear that we must reduce our staffing costs if we are to be able to make the investment we need to deliver our new strategic plan.”
University leaders have highlighted how staffing costs are set to rise further as the Westminster government prepares to increase employer contributions to pensions and national insurance.
In addition a number of Scottish higher education institutions lost millions of pounds in research funding from the Scottish Funding Council earlier this month – Aberdeen suffered a reduction in its research funding to the tune of £1.5m over the next three years.
Others to lose out included Robert Gordon University, Dundee University, St Andrews University and Glasgow School of Art. Last year Dundee reduced its staffing by 55 with a further 70 job losses being proposed this year.
University and College Union (UCU) Scotland official, Mary Senior, said of the plans: “The proposed loss of 150 jobs at Aberdeen University is deeply troubling. On top of Dundee University axeing 55 positions last year and currently proposing more, this is a worrying time for the sector.
“Cutting the very staff who make the university the world-class institution it is can’t be done without impacting on the student experience and the university’s reputation. We will be meeting the university to argue against the job losses.”
News of the funding reduction earlier this month led the principal of the University of Edinburgh, Sir Timothy O’Shea, to warn that the decision could have a negative impact on jobs – his own instituion saw an £8m cut despite it coming top of UK research tables.
Universities Scotland, which represents higher education institutions, argued that its members have become “victims of their own success”.
This is echoed by Labour shadow education spokesman, Iain Gray, who said of the Aberdeen job losses: “The SNP Scottish Government were hoping no-one would notice that they cut millions from the universities’ budget in January, but 150 jobs going at Aberdeen may well be the first sign of the impact that will have.
“The sector has warned SNP ministers about the effects of these logic-defying cuts, but they have continued regardless of the world-class research produced by our universities.
“It’s little wonder then universities feel victims of their own success when their reward is funding cuts and job losses.”
A government spokeswoman said: “Staffing is a matter for individual universities and, through the Scottish Funding Council, we are maintaining overall funding for the sector of more than
£1 billion for 2015-16.”
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