UK universities have made thousands of staff redundant since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Data, obtained by educational platform Edvoy using Freedom of Information requests and seen by Times Higher Education, show that over 3,000 staff were made redundant between March 1 and September 20 this year by the 104 universities that responded.
This includes those employed on fixed-term contracts that ended without being renewed. The impact of the pandemic on university finances has led to reports of many institutions opting against renewing the contracts of staff in non-permanent roles. “The high number of job losses are a worrying indicator of the state of higher education in the UK. Casualisation has been a growing problem in UK universities, and these figures show how much this has been exacerbated by the pandemic,” says Nicole Wootton-Cane, editor at Edvoy.
In July, the University and College Union estimated that thousands of staff on fixed-term contracts could lose their roles as a result of the pandemic. At the same time, the Institute for Fiscal Studies estimates that British universities could slash spending on temporary teaching staff by £200 million (Rs.1,977 crore), and on other temporary staff by £300 million owing to financial pressures caused by the crisis.
Oxford University recorded 416 redundancies, mostly fixed-term contracts that expired. A spokesman said this figure was in line with previous years. The University of Cambridge reported 267 redundancies, while the universities of Leicester, York and Glasgow all topped 100.
Raj Jethwa, chief executive of the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA), says institutions have “worked hard to minimise the impact of the pandemic crisis”. “In all sectors of the economy, Covid-19 has unfortunately led to job losses and the non-renewal of fixed-term contracts. HE institutions boast some of the best employment frameworks in the UK, and decisions affecting jobs are never taken lightly. All of UCEA’s members will involve their trade unions as staff representatives and work hard to avoid compulsory redundancies,” says Jethwa.
(Excerpted and adapted from Times Higher Education and The Economist)