Like many other UK universities, we face a challenging external environment with greater competition for prospective students, flattening income, rapidly rising costs, a wider political uncertainty and now the effects of Covid-19.
As a result, our published annual financial accounts show an underlying deficit from operations of £8m, largely as a result of our rising costs and external pressures and in line with our budget for the year. Added to this is £7m of one-off costs of restructuring already underway and £45m resulting from the need to make significant provision on our balance sheet for future pension liabilities (as all universities in the USS scheme have had to do, often resulting in large deficits on balance sheets) and so our total reported deficit for the year is £60m. We are not alone in the higher education sector in reporting a deficit of this size at this time.
To get our finances back into balance and ensure our university remains successful and sustainable into the future, we have embarked on a significant change programme. This has been underway since early 2019. We are adjusting the shape and size of the University, reviewing our academic offer, building upon our current strengths and successes, launching new programmes in medicine, science, engineering and social sciences, as well as delivering degree apprenticeships.
To ensure this programme of change is co-ordinated and well governed we have established a Financial Improvement and Sustainability Board which is made up of key university executives with responsibility for the various change, savings and efficiency programmes and appointed an interim Financial Improvement Director, reporting to the Vice Chancellor, to ensure the various work streams are managed and co-ordinated effectively. This Board is chaired by the Vice-Chancellor and is subject to the oversight of the University’s governing body. Our lenders, who have worked with the University for many years, are supporting us in the delivery of our plans.
We remain firmly focussed on delivering high quality education, undertaking world leading research, providing award winning support for our students and maintaining our position as one of Britain’s top 50 universities.