Bangor University is currently looking to make more staff redundancies, in an effort to make 5 million pounds in cutbacks going into the next academic year.
The university is citing pension provisions, pay increases and the impact of falling enrollments as the reasons why these cutbacks are necessary.
As it stands, the Schools of Music and Media, Chemistry, Business and Sports Science are currently being affected by this decision.
The School of Music and Media faces losing 5 senior members of media staff, with the School of Business looking at the same potential loss. It is also understood that members of staff in Music and Sports Science are being reviewed.
This plan looks to cut out the entire School of Chemistry by making 1/3 of its staff redundant each year until all current undergraduates finish out their degrees. They intend on not taking on any incoming Chemistry students.
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Upon further investigation, the reasons the university has cited for making these cuts are questionable. A student’s perspective can be found here.
Pension provisions have been an ongoing issue within the university, having been the reason why many staff members took strike action in the beginning of 2018. It’s worth looking into the realities of the pension issues facing Bangor staff.
These pension issues were provoked by employers and pension managers claiming there to be massive deficits in the lecturers’ pension scheme, which prompted employers to close that scheme and open up a new one that would leave lecturers with, on average, 200k less over the course of retirement.
This quickly led to strike action across the country, with strikes at Bangor having lasted a month.
It has since been discovered through an independent study done by representatives of Bangor University’s lecturer union (the UCU) that strike action was necessary, and that the original pension scheme had a much smaller deficit than employers and pension managers initially thought.
Despite some pay increases, staff costs overall were lower than that of 2014. There was also an increase in pension payments, however new pension information has come to light this year (refer to pension provisions).
In respect to pay increases, total staff numbers (FTE) have decreased from 1,812 (2016/17) to 1,685 (decrease of 127 staff). This means that staff salaries account for significantly less of the university’s overall financial expenditure than they did last year, making the fact that some received pay increases redundant.
The financial statement for the 2016/17 academic year, published by the university, states, “Student recruitment remains reasonably healthy”.
It also claims that, “Overall home/EU and international recruitment was broadly on target in 2016/17, and we remain confident that future recruitment to Bangor University will be in line with our targets”.
An increase of student admissions across the board was reported in the 2018 financial report.
Where is the money going?
It costs quite a bit of money to ensure that a university can thrive. However, students also pay substantial amounts of money each year to ensure that they do. So where do Bangor University’s funds go?
As it turns out, quite a bit of it has gone towards the VC’s personal endeavours over the past 8 years.
When he resumed the position in 2010, he appointed his wife Head of International Office, a role that paid 75k. She also held this position in the university that Hughes was VC of just prior to entering the role in Bangor.
She then proceeded to spend 2 million refurbishing the international office.
Hughes racked up 20k in expenses over the last year alone, in addition to receiving a 245k annual salary. He also received an 8% pay increase in this period and was in a 5 star hotel in Hong Kong at the time staff redundancies were announced in June.
Aside from the VC’s personal endeavors, it is also worth looking into the external investments that the university is making at this time.
Bangor recently pledged 20 million to a Menai Science Park on Anglesey, a project that has created 100 job opportunities, not necessarily for Bangor alumni, in its first year and a half.
This does not offset the 60 staff members who currently face redundancy to save the university a total of 8.5 million, or the 115 who faced redundancy last year to save 5 million.
The financial statement for the 2016/17 academic year, which is the most recent, claims “the demolition of redundant buildings on the Deniol Road site took place over the summer of 2016, thus creating decant and expansion space for future development.”
These developments will “address the science based research and teaching facilities currently situated in Deniol Road and Dean Street; these will receive significant strategic investment.”
This financial strategy fails to regard that science research will suffer massively without a functioning chemistry department.
There appears to be a pattern of starting new innovative building projects, disregarding the financial stability of the institution and making lecturers expendable, despite them being the core of the university.
It should be noted that capital grants are used for a substantial portion, but not all, of the costs of these projects.
Research, both here in Bangor and across the university sector, has suggested troubling links between pensions, university debt, and the building spree that is happening on every campus to attract new students.
In order to protect lecturers from potential redundancy, students are urged to contact the Student’s Union with any concerns they have.
A student-led protest has been planned for January 18th; https://www.facebook.com/events/201950287413173/