Summary of Meeting with UoN – Finance

UCU met with University management to discuss concerns on the 11th Nov 2020

UCU asked for update, with info re Covid spending

UoN update:

When Covid struck in March, we lost £43m income (commercial, research, tuition), approximately half of it related to a reduction in research income. We would have been in dire straits in August, at the end of the financial year, and therefore had to introduce stringent spend controls. The Emergency Finance Group chaired by Andy Long was created to monitor spend. The finance plan worked better than anticipated and the net debt position (£100m) is as strong as we could have hoped going into this financial year.

FY 20/21 –Projected loss £150m. Just over half of the loss of income relates to a drop in recruitment of international students (assumed loss of 80% of target). The rest is loss of research income, commercial income and catering income. This is a multi-year problem. This year we paused capital investment (with the exception of anything that is H&S related and/or is committed)and implemented the 15% saving plans (covid adjustment plans). We will also borrow more. We have gone into this crisis in one of best places in the Russell Group. That is why we are in position to borrow money.

On recruitment, we achieved 80% of UG, 51% of PGT, 56% of PGR (as of 23 Oct). Further 20% of PGT are due to join in January.

We will not know the full financial picture until shortly before Christmas. The situation is not as bad as worst case scenario, but student retention is a problem. If we have to reimburse accommodation costs, it will have a financial impact. This is not what has been driving our decisions, but it is a reality that we need to take into account.

Re Covid budget, the cost of covid increasing daily level. £6.5m for this year, so far. Testing is costing £2m; the rest is for signage; hand sanitizer, meals for students. The government will pay for Pillar 2 testing, not the asymptomatic testing.

UCU question:

Has a comparative project been made about offset of making the university Covid-safe and going fully online, saving the money of Covid-safe measure? Particularly given that students are increasingly not coming to class.

UoN response:

Student tuition far over exceeds money spent on making campus covid safe. Students need the ‘Campus experience’. It’s not just classes, but other facilities on campus. We have to give a ‘rounded’ offer, including face to face teaching. We continue to think this is valuable.

We are not dismissing the value of online teaching, but we have to give students multiple opportunities. We are not saying that people aren’t doing excellent work in online teaching, but the blended approach is there to give a rounded experience. We have to maintain this offer after Christmas. The real concern after Christmas is mass transport from other parts of country and outbreaks of Covid. We understand the anxieties, but there is no evidence to show that face to face is dangerous. There is no evidence ofrisk related to F2F teaching. The only reason we are going online from 9 December is to allow for students to go home. It is not related to the danger of teaching F2F.