These are due to a combination of factors largely outside of our control, such as increasing costs associated with inflation, rising energy and pension costs, and a UK undergraduate fee that has remained at the same level for more than a decade, meaning it is now worth around two thirds of its value from when introduced in 2012. Recent changes to visa rules introduced by the UK government are also making it much harder for universities to recruit international students.
This means that our income is currently lower than forecast while overall costs have increased. While we remain solvent, we do have a small deficit, so are taking steps to reduce costs in the short term, both to ensure that we remain in a healthy overall financial position, and to underpin our plans for growth.
Plans for growth
This year we will open our flagship Howard Street development in Sheffield. It will deliver a modern, efficient, and environmentally sustainable campus, providing outstanding facilities for our students and staff. It will also deliver significant regeneration of a key gateway to the city centre and provide a new public green space for local people. This development underlines our commitment to Sheffield and our important civic leadership role in the region – as an employer, learning provider, and anchor organisation. We are proud to make a positive contribution to the local economy in Sheffield through our teaching, research, collaborations with partners and regional employers, and our support for local communities.
We are also completing a thorough review of our course portfolio, in consultation with partners and employers, to ensure we can build on our outstanding record of providing qualifications that prepare graduates for highly skilled jobs. In the current financial situation – and in the absence of any likelihood of improved funding arrangements in higher education policy – we cannot simply rely on current student recruitment for future success. We must enhance our offer by looking for opportunities to deliver in new ways. One example is our plan for a London campus, which will see us deliver provision in the new Brent Cross Town development. Due to open in 2026, it will enable us to expand our reach in the capital, create opportunities for students from Sheffield to benefit from placements and work experience, and present a wider offer for international students.
Several cost-saving measures have already been put in place at the University this year. One of these is a Voluntary Severance scheme for academic staff, due to close on 22 January, and we are also consulting on proposals to consolidate a number of academic departments. In line with normal practice, Trade Unions are engaged in collective consultation and staff briefings have taken place. Overall, we anticipate the need to reduce our 1700 academic staff by around 5% through this process, although precise numbers may change following the consultation period.
These measures are about changes to organisational structure, and do not affect our course offer. We are committed to remaining a large and broad-based university, and are proud of our Gold-rating in the Teaching Excellence Framework. Throughout this period of change we will be working to ensure that we maintain the quality of delivery for our students.
We have also implemented measures to reduce costs in non-academic areas, such as reductions to operating budgets and a pause on recruitment to vacant posts. We will continue to seek opportunities for further efficiencies, wherever these are consistent with our overall strategy and our commitment to our students and partners.
Universities right across the country are having to make tough decisions about the way they operate. We are proud of our award-winning teaching and research, our outstanding student experience, and our role in the city and region. Our mission to transform lives will continue to shape all that we do, and we will work to ensure that any changes we make over the period ahead are consistent with this ambition.