Questions you may have

What’s the University’s Strategic Plan?

Our biggest ever consultation has been to develop a strategic plan for the University for the next five years, and many in our student community made a very valuable contribution to these discussions. What emerged strongly was the desire to focus, build on our strengths, and invest in growing our position as a world-leading university from which our students will be proud to graduate.

The plan sets out the high level priorities in Teaching and Learning, Research, and investing in People. The school strategic plans carry these forward over the next five years for each of the University’s schools. 

The over-arching strategic plan was finalised and approved by the University Court in June, and the printed document can be seen here and a specially-created digital version will be on the University website soon.

Why does the University need to save money?

The funding environment for UK universities has become steadily more challenging over recent years. We also face rising costs due to the increases in National Insurance and employer contributions to staff pensions from April 2016, as well as the additional costs of the annual cost of living and incremental salary increases. In addition there have been cuts in government funding to universities over the last few years and further cuts are anticipated next year which will effect 2016/17. 

At the same time we need to compete internationally for the best students, teachers and researchers, with universities where large investment has been made.

The new strategic plan presents an opportunity to grow our position as one of the world’s leading universities. To achieve our academic ambitions we must continue to invest in areas of strategic importance and strength.  This will only be possible if we continue to be financially strong and stable.

What is the University doing to save money?

From spring this year we have been reviewing all of our costs, systems and ways of working to ensure that we are aligned with our priorities, are as efficient as possible and eliminate duplication, bureaucracy and waste as much as possible.

For example we are reviewing the ten-year capital plan (our long term programme for investment in our infrastructure and facilities), freezing recruitment to jobs which are funded from core University budgets, reviewing how our professional support services could become more streamlined and efficient, and stringently managing operating budgets.

We also introduced, in spring, the opportunity for staff to take advantage of a scheme for voluntary severance or early retirement.

By the end of October we had achieved almost three-quarters of our savings target through this range of measures.

Why can’t the University use its assets to release the money it needs?

We need to ensure that we are financially sustainable on an annual basis. Selling off parts of our estate or other assets would not give us that annual saving that we need.

Why do we need to save money on staff?

At present nearly 60% of our overall budget is committed to staffing costs, which is more than other universities of similar size. This gives us less flexibility to react to new challenges and opportunities compared to other higher education institutions. In addition to saving through other means, we must reduce our payroll bill if we are to maintain and grow our position in an increasingly competitive international market, and ensure long term stability and opportunity for all.

This is the reason for introducing, in spring, the opportunity for staff to take advantage of a scheme for voluntary severance or early retirement.

What is Voluntary Severance (VS)?

Voluntary severance is part of the University’s normal business processes. It offers an opportunity for both the University and an individual employee to mutually agree an early departure from employment.  It is entirely voluntary for both parties.

When staff apply to leave the University through this scheme there must be careful consideration of how critical their role is to the University. In approving applications we seek to ensure that there is minimal impact on the quality of teaching and student experience.

By the end of October we had achieved around half of the total savings we need through the Voluntary Severance scheme, and further savings are being generated by other efficiency programmes.

The Voluntary Severance and Early Retirement Scheme closes on 10 November. Following that the University senior management will meet with trade union representatives to discuss the outcomes of the VS scheme and other ongoing cost saving initiatives. By early January, if the University management consider that further savings need to be made from staff costs, there will be a fully consultative process with the campus trade unions with the aim of avoiding compulsory redundancies.

What will the savings be used for?

Our aim in pursuing our savings programme is to enable the University to remain financially strong and able to continue to invest in growing reputation, teaching and research excellence, and all the added advantages of student experience that make an Aberdeen graduate so special.

This includes:

  • Being able to pay our rising costs as an employer
  • Being able to continue to attract outstanding staff to teach and research at the University
  • Continue to improve our campuses
  • Being at the forefront of technology and digital innovation, so that our students are well equipped for their future lives and career
  • Growing international opportunities for the benefit of all in the Aberdeen community

How does all this affect me as a student?

Our overall aim in pursuing this programme is to get the University in the best possible position to build on our strengths and increase our international reputation, continue to improve all aspects of student experience and add further value to an Aberdeen degree.

As we go through this period of restructuring and aligning to priorities, our top concern is to maintain the quality of all aspects of the student experience and support. We recognise that losing a number of staff may cause concern across our student community, however we are working to ensure that this does not impact teaching programmes, exams, research supervision, or student support. 

Applications by staff to the Voluntary Severance scheme are considered in line with the business activity of the University, and the impact on teaching programmes if that post is removed. This means that applications are not automatically approved. 

Our top priority is always to protect the continuity of a student’s learning.  For a few students there may be some changes to the content of their courses, (which is a normal occurrence every year as programmes evolve and staff change). However no student should worry that they will not be able to complete the degree they enrolled for.

How can I give my views?

Your views are always important to us, either through your representatives at the Aberdeen University Students Association (AUSA), or direct to University management via Infohub.