Page last updated at 13:35 GMT, Tuesday, 4 August 2009 14:35 UK

University to cut one in 11 staff

By Gary Eason
BBC News website education editor

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The university has to pay back 3.5m to the funding council

The University of Wolverhampton plans to cut 250 jobs - out of 2,700 - in an effort to tackle debts of £8m.

England's higher education funding council has told it to repay £3.5m because, like some other institutions, it understated its drop-out rate.

Wolverhampton aims to "reposition" itself to be more employer-focused.

The University and College Union (UCU) opposes the trawl for redundancies and is seeking a full breakdown of the university's income and expenditure.

The funding council (Hefce) has conducted an audit of Wolverhampton, but says such matters are not usually made public.

Negotiations with the university were continuing, a spokesman said.

'Challenging times'

Wolverhampton's accounts for 2007-08 showed an income of £148.5m and a deficit on continuing operations of £4.7m.

In a statement, the university said it was developing a new employer-focused curriculum for 2010, with more continuous professional development and innovation and enterprise activities to support regional businesses.

Universities in England were all facing challenging times and Wolverhampton was not alone, it said.

Rising pay costs, a change to funding methodologies, a cap on growth and efficiency savings required by the government mean it had to take steps to balance its books and maintain its ability to invest in strategic developments.

The vice-chancellor, Prof Caroline Gipps, said: "The university has sufficient reserves which ensure our financial future.

"However it is imperative that we move as quickly as possible towards a balanced budget with a percentage for investment.

"Our priority remains our students and their learning experience. Every effort will be made to minimise disruption."

'Community role'

But the academics' union said the quality of the student experience was bound to suffer if cuts were made.

The chair of UCU's negotiating committee at Wolverhampton, Loraine Westcott, said: "What we want to know is a complete breakdown from the university as to how they have got themselves into this situation."

There had been some costly restructuring within departments, she said.

Wolverhampton had a big reputation and an important role in the West Midlands in widening participation - taking many students who would probably have problems getting into other universities.

"The vice-chancellor is very keen to forge links with industry and move ahead in a very business-like way," Ms Westcott said.

"It doesn't seem very business-like if they haven't kept their finger on the finances."

Further meetings are planned - but many staff did not yet even know what was happening because of the holidays, she said.

When notices were e-mailed out on Friday the university was blitzed with "out of office" responses, and the union was unlikely to be able to consult its members until September.

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