False Economies Exercise
Some of us will remember the Vice Chancellor’s ‘economies exercise’, which he launched in November 2009 with the aim of ‘saving’ £35 million, in order, it was claimed, to ‘gain a competitive advantage’ and to project the University of Leeds into the top 50 of world universities. The exercise was opposed at the time by the UCU, we said that it would give confidence to government to further cut HE expenditure, damage staff morale and have a disproportionate impact on the local economy.
Low and behold, 80% has been lopped off the HE grant from government by the ConDem government. The UCU went on to say that the £35million would lead to 700 job losses; this was denied by the university. In the event, between July and September 2010, university staff numbers fell by 750. Remaining staff have been forced to shoulder the burden of increasing teaching loads, increasing research demands, increased stress and increased illness. The university is now languishing at 133 in the THE world rankings. The Government will be eyeing up the record £38 million surplus that the university has made this year, considering further cuts. The link between this profitable financial performance and the falling academic ranking is clear. The university has cut jobs, leading to higher staff-student ratios, which in turn are key factors in academic performance and student satisfaction. When a university neglects its academic mission and focuses instead on economizing on staff numbers, staff pay and staff pensions, top 50 aspirations become unworkable in practice.
Far from learning from this sad record, university management are hell bent on putting into place a new set of management measures, key performance indicators and individual performance management meetings in a vain attempt to micromanage faculties and schools. This is no way to run a university.