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Dr Nicky Kemp
Director of Policy & Planning

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Internal News - 12 February 2009

University takes action to tackle its share of the financial challenges facing higher education

A message from the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Glynis Breakwell:

The University of Bath is a leading research university with:

We also have an established reputation for teaching quality:

Both staff and student satisfaction levels are high, 89% and 88% respectively, and we are consistently ranked in the top 15 in national league tables. All of these performance measures have combined to create a virtuous circle, allowing the University to attract: (i) high calibre staff and students; (ii) research and other funding; and (iii) strategic partners.

We have a very strong track record of success and will continue to invest in our future, including enhancement of our physical estate, strengthening of our academic faculty and expansion of our postgraduate research student population.

We are confident that we can maintain our current levels of academic excellence in research and teaching and we remain committed to enhancing the student experience and expanding our research activity. This confidence has been boosted by the strong quality profile we achieved in RAE 2008.

However, we will not be immune to the challenges facing the HE sector. Despite the surpluses we have returned regularly in recent years, our financial forecasts show that we are facing increasing deficits from 2009/10 unless we act now to avert these.

Several drivers are contributing to the projected deficits, including:

As part of our institutional response to the increasingly challenging HE market, we have been looking for ways to secure our future financial sustainability. We believe that we need to make savings now of £2.5-3.0 million, in the context of an annual turnover of £170 million.

Last year a group was set up, which I chaired, to examine what we need to do. The report of that group will be available shortly.

Several important recommendations have been brought forward and are now being implemented. I believe this action will underpin the establishment of affordable budgets, the improved functioning of business processes and the implementation of more business-like costing, pricing and marketing activities.

As we move forward, our support services are likely to need leaner, more flexible organisational structures.

I have asked the heads of all of our professional/support services to look creatively at how they might optimally make savings without having a negative impact on our core academic activity.

We will make every effort to achieve re-organisation and savings without resorting to redundancies. However, whilst we continue to plan the necessary changes, new and replacement posts will only be approved in exceptional circumstances.

Simultaneously, post-RAE, we are also beginning to engage the academic community in discussions about whether our current academic organisational processes and structures are achieving the right balance of critical mass, flexibility and focus.

We clearly need to identify where we need to make investment to achieve the greatest impact but inevitably, more is going to be asked of academic colleagues because we must remain committed to enhancing the student experience and strengthening our research base.

We are facing a period of significant change for higher education and we must make sure that all our systems and structures are fit for purpose.

However, I am confident that as a community we have the talent, creativity and commitment to do this successfully.