Kingston University will slash £9m from its budget over the next two financial years as a response to reduced government funding.
In 2011/2012 £5million will be cut, with a further £4m to be cut in 2012/2013 as the University fights to remain sustainable in the face of government cutbacks.
Kingston University management’s insistence that the cuts are a necessary response to reductions in Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) funding has received backing from Kingston University Students’ Union president elect, Chris Dingle.
“The cuts from the government are the real issue here, rather than the university cuts. We have also received cuts in the HEFCE capital grant as well as cuts to Arts and Social Sciences which hit us particularly hard,” he said.
“Kingston University is simply passing on the cost of the ridiculous cuts the government has brought in.
“£9million cuts are still needed from the figures I have seen and certainly the University needs to invest in its estate if it wants to improve the student experience so the money needs to come from somewhere.”
The University is adamant that cuts will be made with minimal damage to student services and teaching standards. Efficiency savings will be key if compulsory redundancies are to be avoided and course delivery is to be improved.
Investment is also being made in new buildings, which are intended to make the University operate more efficiently in the long term by improving the teaching and learning areas, although the details of this remain unclear. A University spokesperson said:
“It is hoped that the cuts can be absorbed with no significant effect on course delivery and without the need for compulsory redundancies.
“Senior managers will continue to work hard to keep costs down by pinpointing ways the University can operate more efficiently. For example, the levels of planned maintenance for IT will be retained at current levels during the next ten years.
“This package is designed to ensure the long-term future of the University and will mean it can continue to invest in the teaching excellence that is so important to all our students.”
Despite University reassurances, fears remain that such drastic cuts will weaken Kingston University’s student delivery, as management have admitted that they will not be filling staff vacancies. The University and College Union (UCU) is being consulted over threats to jobs, and Andrew Higgingbottom, UCU Kingston branch representative, believes this is one of many factors that could put a great strain on Kingston University’s service provision.
“At the margin there’s always room to do things but there is a real tension there. We have to present to incoming students the best possible face,” he said.
“But at the same time they’ll have to cut costs, so we may see drastic changes in delivery; more reliance on electronics, for example.
“Actual staff contact time is going to be under threat definitely. So faculties are now looking at how to do things smarter.”
Exactly how these savings will be implemented is likely to be decided within nine months time when the extent of cuts in HEFCE funding and the impact of higher fees on student recruitment are clearer.