Earlier this month, Bangor University announced that new cuts would be necessary to fill a £13m gap in the budget. The university attributes this situation to a dramatic drop in enrolment from international students, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Both Bangor University and Undeb Bangor, its Students’ Union, stress in statements that the student experience will be protected, and the university hopes to mitigate losses through aid from the Welsh government’s £50m Covid-19 Higher Education Fund. Nonetheless, the university has begun a consultation with staff that could cut up to 200 jobs.
“We recognise that the University is currently experiencing financial challenges meaning that savings will need to be made and it is unlikely that the University will simply return to the way things were before the pandemic,” said Henry Williams, Undeb Bangor President.
“The Sabbatical Officer Team from the Students’ Union will be working closely with the University to ensure that the Student Voice remains at the forefront of every conversation and that the student experience is at the heart of any subsequent decisions.”
A Bangor University spokesperson was optimistic, emphasising that university’s top priority is the student experience. They went on to describe the challenges facing the university as “an opportunity to innovate and emerge from Covid-19 stronger and as a leading force in higher education.”
Hywel Williams, MP for Arfon, spoke less optimistically of the cuts: “I hope it is possible to mitigate the impact on staff through voluntary redundancies, although I fear the scope for this is very limited given previous cutbacks.”
Those last words are likely to resonate with students and faculty alike, as cuts in recent years have been a regular presence at Bangor. The most significant of these was the 2019 decision to dissolve the school of chemistry, a controversial decision which will see the loss of 18 staff and savings of £1.4m by 2022.
Hywel Williams continued: “These are incredibly challenging times for everyone, and universities have been exposed to the financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic across a number of fronts, including the loss of international tuition fee income.
“I fear the situation has not been helped by the chaos surrounding this year’s A-level results in England, which may have resulted in some students diverting to other universities.”
Undeb Bangor has assured students that they are in constant contact with the university, and will continue to represent the interests of the student body in plans going forward.
The question posed to Bangor University, administration and students alike, is not whether cuts are good or bad. The question now is how, or where, will those savings be made. And the answer will rely on not only the university administration, but also upon a strong student voice.