Robert Gordon University could cut more than 200 jobs as it targets £18m of savings

Aberdeen institution blames UK immigration changes and Scottish Government funding cuts

More than 200 jobs could be axed at Robert Gordon University as it seeks to plug an £18million budget hole following funding cuts and UK immigration changes.

The Aberdeen-based institution has told its staff that a voluntary severance scheme is being opened, with the majority of employees able to apply.

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In what has been described as a “bombshell” announcement before the Easter weekend, they also heard the university has an £18m savings target, with £12m to come from reducing staff costs, although not entirely job cuts.

Robert Gordon University in AberdeenRobert Gordon University in Aberdeen
Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen

It is the latest threat to jobs in the higher education sector in Scotland, following redundancies proposed in the modern languages department at neighbouring Aberdeen University.

The Scotsman also previously revealed a “comprehensive review” is under way into the future of the University of the Highlands and Islands.

Universities are struggling to balance the books following a cut of 6 per cent, or £48.5million, in the funding provided by the Scottish Government to cover the tuition of Scottish students.

Meanwhile, costs are rising and the reduction in grant comes at a time when stricter UK Government immigration rules are making it harder to recruit fee-paying international students.

Earlier this month, the outgoing director of Universities Scotland, Alastair Sim, wrote in The Scotsman that “without sustainable funding, universities will have to make increasingly difficult decisions about course closures, job losses, and erosion of the student experience”.

Robert Gordon University’s (RGU) accounts show that last year the amount it raised from tuition fees increased from the previous year by £11.8m, or 24.8 per cent, to £59.3m, with non-EU international fees rising by 58.5 per cent to £37.4m. Staff numbers and costs increased in turn to cope with the rise in international students. But the number of overseas students is now falling.Meanwhile, the salary of RGU principal, Steve Olivier, went up by £13,517, or almost 6.5 per cent, to £222,452 last year.

On Thursday, staff at RGU were told of the severance plans, with bosses understood to be seeking a reduction of as many as 220 posts.

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They also heard proposals for a “restructure” of the academic schools, with the School of Creative and Cultural Business believed to be earmarked for a shake-up. The university insisted there would be no “significant change” in the offering to students.

Mary Senior, from the University and College Union, said: “It’s a worrying time for staff at Robert Gordon University given yesterday’s announcement, and a difficult time for workers across the university sector as there are voluntary severance or voluntary redundancy schemes running in a number of institutions including Glasgow Caledonian University, Aberdeen University and others.”

Professor Olivier, the RGU principal, said: “Universities in Scotland and throughout the UK are facing significant financial challenges due to a steep drop in international student numbers caused by changes to UK immigration policy; a severe decline in public funding; and acute cost pressures in the current economic climate.

“Robert Gordon University is a successful institution and we have seen significant growth in recent years. However, it’s important that we act now and respond to these external financial pressures to not only maintain our long-term financial sustainability but also to continue delivering on our wide-ranging strategic commitments to the north-east and beyond.”



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