It will not have escaped members’ attention that the University is currently struggling to recruit students on to its taught programmes.
There are those that would argue that this is simply because the courses offered are not what prospective students want, or that the standards of some courses are simply not good enough.
Some of this may be true, but the University has already conceded that raising the entry tariff requirement would have a detrimental effect on recruitment, and claimed that this was factored in to its financial planning.
Whilst it got that right in principle, the truth has proved to be much worse than was anticipated, both in terms of magnitude and duration. A failure to reach targets year on year continued into the last recruitment round; how long can this be sustained?
UCU believes that the conscious decision to raise tariff and the subsequent loss of income has led the BEP initiative into a crisis management phase, where cost cutting is the primary objective. Job cuts are the inevitable consequence.
Bradford University had a proud reputation for widening participation in Higher Education and was not long ago considered an exemplar in this respect. Such an approach inevitably made for challenges in respect of satisfactory outcomes; it was though (and remains) a commendable aspiration to assist those from disadvantaged backgrounds in this way.
The city of Bradford has many issued, not least of which is the extent of child poverty in the district. Bradford also performs poorly at Primary and Secondary level, which of course means that output at A-Level is equally disadvantageous. The University is therefore in danger of offering courses with entry requirements that are simply not achievable by the majority of the A Level students of Bradford. So much for community facing!
Further, a reduction in student numbers can only exacerbate the problems being faced by the business community in the vicinity of the University and College. Less staff and students means less demand for accommodation, food, provisions, entertainment etc. all of which local businesses depend upon.
All this in the week that the University of Bristol has announced tariff concessions for those from disadvantaged backgrounds to encourage social mobility through widening participation.