240411 Open Letter from the Campus Trade Unions

Dear Vice Chancellor,

We are writing to express our ongoing concerns about your Financial Resilience Programme here at the University of Surrey.

In your response, dated the 14th of March 2024, to our previous Open Letter, you claimed that staff cuts were being made because of sector-wide problems. As we knew at the time, historical borrowing and significant spending on multi-million-pound projects undermined your claim.

In the intervening weeks since our previous Open Letter, scores of staff have now accepted voluntary redundancy and it is unfortunate that we hear in some cases this has happened through coercion, or through people feeling that their hand has been forced given that you refused to remove the possibility of compulsory redundancies.

We now face a summer where many valued and experienced colleagues will leave the University of Surrey, and no all-staff communication has been forthcoming about onward plans for staff and students in the wake of such high staff losses. Neither has there been any all-staff meeting to update about your progress towards your financial goals. We only know that if you decide to make redundancies before the end of the University Financial Year on July the 31st, these will have already been planned and will need to be announced soon.

Our principal concern now relates to your future capital plans. The amount of institutional debt (an outlier in the sector) appears to be forcing you to pursue your substantial investment plans by running down cash reserves beyond a point which is sensible and then having to make cuts to free up cash to compensate and mitigate this. If the Executive Board and University Council were to dial back on substantial investment plans, then there could be a more prudent approach to the projected level of surpluses. You have not justified why staff need to lose their jobs, you have not clarified or outlined the future capital plans which are deemed so essential that they warrant targeting staff as part of an irrevocable institutional loss. Staff cuts of this magnitude and the cutting of courses will affect the
University’s reputation both in the short and medium term and would mean applicants will not be confident in applying.

In light of such lack of transparency, we therefore request:

  • An explanation as to why all-staff communication has ceased even though we are heading for significant changes across the university.
  • That the university therefore update staff on progress towards financial ambitions, specifically: i) whether VS has been sufficient for your aims, and ii) whether further measures will be needed, and if so, what these are.
  • That all programme and module changes be discussed openly and transparently with those staff and students who will be impacted and voted through at quorate Boards of Studies meetings in line with the University’s regulations.
  • That the University Executive Board make public the scale of University capital investment plans.
  • That you supply the detailed financial information which we requested, and which was promised in your 14th March letter response.

We look forward to a speedy response.

Yours sincerely,

UCU, Unite, and Unison Committees