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Universities at risk of 'financial meltdown', warns UCU

19 April 2010

UCU today warned that government funding cuts to higher education could lead to universities facing 'financial meltdown' after the BBC revealed that the University of Cumbria came close to not paying its staff wages last month.

The university, which is nearly £30m in debt, had to be bailed out by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and the union said that many more institutions could be 'forced to the wall' if university budgets are slashed.
The higher education sector is facing cuts of over 900m in the next three years and in January university leaders said that as many as 30 institutions could be forced to close. The University of Cumbria is looking to make 200 staff redundant and announced plans to close its Ambleside campus.
UCU estimates that over 14,000 university jobs could be at risk as a result of the planned cuts and warned that students will face larger class sizes and substantial cuts to courses, as thousands of teachers find themselves on the dole queue.
The union pointed to the fact that while Germany, France and the US had all pumped additional funding into higher education as part of their economic recovery programmes, the government cuts were putting at risk the UK's international competitiveness and chances of economic recovery.
UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'I am very worried that what we are seeing at Cumbria is just a sign of things to come. The simple truth is that cuts cannot be made without consequences and I think there is a very real danger of more and more universities facing financial meltdown.
'Unless these savage cuts are reversed, we face the very real prospect of many universities being forced to the wall, over 14,000 staff losing their jobs and some of the biggest class sizes in the world. The government simply cannot afford to ignore these warnings if it wants the UK to remain a major player in the global knowledge economy. Other leading economies are investing money in universities in order to help economic growth and widen participation, yet our government seems intent on doing the opposite.'
Last updated: 11 December 2015