UCU LA Response to VC Briefing

The VC Briefing that was issued in the week before the Christmas Break made for interesting reading as the festive period loomed.

The VC refers to ambitious recruitment targets for 2017/18, as well as a subsequent failure to meet those targets. The briefing goes on to equate that shortfall to a “substantial reduction in income” that will be covered by calling upon financial reserves.

This poses a number of questions:

· Did the targets represent an increase in recruitment over previous years or do we continue to plan for decline?

  • How far off target were we?
  • What does this mean in cash terms?
  • What is the impact in percentage terms on the University’s reserves
  • Does this equate to an operating loss, and of what magnitude?
  • What are the risks to the University of HEFCE intervention due to poor financial performance?

The briefing then turns to the strategy to address what is clearly a worrying development at the end of a period where worrying developments appear to have become rather commonplace.

The assembly of an executive team to look at future student recruitment is announced, a team (I paraphrase) that will “build on our recent student recruitment experiences, learn from these and identify opportunities which we can leverage and exploit so that we are in the best possible position to recruit the numbers of students we need in the future” is proposed.

More questions arise from this announcement:

  • Shouldn’t this already be embedded practice?
  • If it wasn’t, why not?
  • Who is responsible for the University not being sufficiently focussed on recruitment strategy over a sustained period of poor recruitment performance?
  • What next if sustainable levels of recruitment continue to be elusive next year? Subsequent years?

Finally, the briefing makes a commitment to updating us all in recruitment planning in the New Year. I am sure we are all eager to hear that update.

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2 thoughts on “UCU LA Response to VC Briefing

  1. Shouldn’t this already be embedded practice?
    Yes, and to a certain extent it is, but this is a new team; a Tiger Team, the definition of which is: “a diversified group of experts brought together for a single project, need, or event…usually assigned to investigate, solve, build, or recommend possible solutions to unique situations or problems.”
    Essentially, a crisis team.

    If it wasn’t, why not?
    See Above

    Who is responsible for the University not being sufficiently focussed on recruitment strategy over a sustained period of poor recruitment performance?
    Ironically, the same people who are now the members of the Tiger Team (albeit with some extra high-level substitutes drafted in) at Senior Management Level.

    What next if sustainable levels of recruitment continue to be elusive next year? Subsequent years?
    Continue to slash our tariff, or alternatively, continue to drop the levels at which we offer guaranteed unconditional offers – which seems to be the most popular game in the marketplace right now: “how low can you go?”.

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  2. How far off target were we?
    Just over 400 (approximately) so roughly double the previous, predicted ‘miss target’.

    What does this mean in cash terms?
    Between £4 & £6 million, depending on the actuality of the answer to Question 1, plus how badly we continue to under-recruit from 2018 onwards…

    What is the impact in percentage terms on the University’s reserves
    Not sure, but the University’s commitment to Capital Investiture, specifically the money required for a new medical school, seems misplaced.

    Does this equate to an operating loss, and of what magnitude?
    Creative accounting will come into place, one suspects.

    What are the risks to the University of HEFCE intervention due to poor financial performance?
    Depends on the answer to the question above, I guess. However, I suspect we are not in as bad a position as Bradford College.

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