AROUND 700 workers at a North East university have been offered severance packages as academic chiefs stage a huge shake-up of staff.
Northumbria University is in the middle of an organisational review that has already seen a reshuffle of the institution’s academic structure with eight of the university’s academic units slimmed down to four faculties.
Now the university’s management is reviewing four sectors of the university’s support staff, including administration; communications, marketing and recruitment; IT support; and research administration and business engagement.
It is unclear how many staff will leave but Jane Embley, the university’s director of human resources, has told staff the key purpose of the review was to “create a fit-for-purpose organisational structure”.
Consultation papers reveal the vice-chancellor’s “vision for the university in 2025 will enable it to succeed in the new environment for higher education”.
Documents seen by The Journal state “compulsory redundancies will be avoided wherever possible” but add: “Although the impact of the change is not yet known, it is a necessary part of the review process to advise you that the outcome of this work could place positions at risk of redundancy.”
Jo Rhodes, president of Northumbria Students’ Union, urged decision-makers to take the “student experience” into account. She said: “The Students’ Union hope the university ensures the student experience at Northumbria is considered throughout this restructure.”
The restructure comes two years after the university shed more than 100 jobs in an effort to cope with a £200m national funding gap. Last year it sparked criticism by handing vice chancellor Andrew Wathey a pay increase of nearly £25,000 while offering lecturers an annual rise of just 1%.
Mr Wathey became one of the region’s highest-paid university leaders with a salary of £230,000.
In a letter to staff, Ms Embley wrote: “I know that periods of change create uncertainty, however I would like to reassure you that the key objective of this stage is to create a fit-for-purpose organisational structure for the future.
“We do not anticipate all roles included in the review process will be affected in the longer term and whilst some reshaping of the workforce will be required this is likely to include new opportunities.”
A spokesperson for Northumbria University said: “We are now operating in an increasingly challenging environment. To ensure our continued success, we are looking at ways of better supporting the university’s business to put us in a strong position to meet our students’ needs.
“While some roles may be reshaped, new opportunities will also become available to others. Support staff will continue to provide roles which are critical to our success and we are committed to avoiding compulsory redundancies. A discretionary voluntary severance scheme is available to staff in some areas.”