16 September 2020

University trying to cut cost in pandemic times

It's that time again! The university is in financial difficulty and needs to make cuts. In these pandemic times, fewer students are coming, and most importantly, fewer international (non-EU) students are. So that leaves a hole in the budget! So that needs to be balanced again. They have sent all of us staff an email speaking of voluntary redundancy, early retirement and reduction of hours. I have no plans to go for any of that; I still like my job. And I am too young to retire. And I don't want reduced hours because I am convinced this would just mean reduced pay with the same hours. But we'll see how we weather this storm! I've only been at Bangor University since 2014 but this is already the third round of cuts I see happen! (First here and then here.) Difficult times in UK higher education. 

To be honest, I don't think the sector is run well; we're somehow supposed to run like a business, and although I think some business-like thinking is a good thing, I don't think it should dominate. If all universities have to be funded through student fees they will just try to attract as many students as they can! And thus make things attractive to them. But what attracts students is not always what is good for said students and/or for society. You can start lots of fad degrees (I've facetiously suggested 'Love Island studies') but is that what society needs? Is that where the jobs are? And this commercialisation also leads inevitably to grade inflation. Do you want to go to a university where the chances of you getting a 'good' degree are low? No! So all universities make sure to give loads of students a 'good' degree. Tempting to lower the standards a bit to achieve that. I think now that COVID has changed everything, both the sector and those making decisions about it will have to do some deep thinking! I'm curious to see how we come through this. I could imagine even after the pandemic is over the effects will be profound! Will we really all go back to the office? And if not, what will the university do with all that space? Will more students study online? Will that mean the pairing of going to university-leaving home will de decoupled? Stay tuned! We are living in interesting times... 

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