Leaked Cambridge University internal report reveals huge proposed cuts

Elspeth Carruthers - Deputy News Editor 23 January 2011

A leaked report from the University’s Planning and Resources Committee has revealed huge proposed cutbacks to University staff and infrastructure following the 2010 Comprehensive Spending Review.

The report, apparently presented to the Committee at a meeting on the 24th November by working groups tasked with examining ways of saving money, outlines projected cuts which would have a profound effect on the life of the University.

30,000 supervision hours could be cut and the size of supervision groups increased – yet payment for supervisions is the responsibility of the Colleges.

Professor Gillian Evans told The Cambridge Student that “it is not for the University to suggest how to fund “. Rich colleges would be able to make up the cuts, but poorer colleges would not; the result would be a “different student experience”.

Professor Evans predicted “immense resistance” from academics to this proposal in particular, saying that Oxbridge dons are “passionate” about the supervision/tutorial system.

Further proposals suggest cutting numbers of lectures, abolishing papers with small numbers of candidates, and closing MPhil courses which attract small numbers of students. Senior University politicians, however, privately commented that such proposals would be very difficult to put into practice.

Another controversial proposal suggests a voluntary severance scheme which would make it easier to sack University staff, a process which is currently extremely difficult.

Yet the ‘sufficient incentives’ needed to encourage staff to seek voluntary severance would be drawn from central funds. This is “expending money to get rid of them”, according to Professor Evans.

More employment cuts could come from the administrative and IT departments of the University.

The cuts to staff would, according to Professor Evans, lead to a ‘loss of the range of special expertise’ of the University.

The report also suggests merging the University’s two IT services, stating that computing support ‘appears to be balkanized’.

The report is not currently publicly available, but a Freedom of Information request has been submitted by University Computing Staff member Bruce Beckles.

Professor Evans told TCS that in principle she was in favour of “cutting fat rather than making cuts”, but the danger was that “one slides into the other…and you make someone anorexic.”

When asked about the report in an interview with TCS, the Vice Chancellor said that ‘we have to make the money work even harder for the education and research of the University’.

Elspeth Carruthers – Deputy News Editor