‘Perfect storm’ facing universities forces RGU to restructure and cut jobs


ROBERT Gordon University (RGU) has launched a voluntary severance scheme for staff as it battles financial challenges due to funding cuts and the impact of tightening UK immigration policy.

A perfect storm of pressures has forced the RGU leadership to move forward with a financial transformation project to maintain the university’s “long-term financial sustainability”.

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The university said it needed to “act now” to tackle financial pressures – and proposals include the merging of some our schools, but with no significant change in academic offering.

Professor Steve Olivier, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of Robert Gordon University (RGU) said: “Universities in Scotland and throughout the UK are facing significant financial challenges due to a steep drop in international student numbers caused by changes to UK immigration policy; a severe decline in public funding; and acute cost pressures in the current economic climate.

“Robert Gordon University is a successful institution and we have seen significant growth in recent years. However, it’s important that we act now and respond to these external financial pressures to not only maintain our long-term financial sustainability but also to continue delivering on our wide-ranging strategic commitments to the North-east and beyond.

“As part of our detailed plans to navigate these sector challenges, we have committed to taking some challenging yet necessary actions and have now opened a voluntary severance scheme for the majority of staff to apply to. While we have always recognised staff as our biggest asset, we are at a place where we must streamline our structure and reprofile our workforce.

“We have also commenced a period of consultation for a proposed restructure of our academic schools. The proposal includes the merging of some of our schools but with no significant change in academic offering to all of our current and future students as we are not closing any of our subject provision.

“These are carefully considered decisions and have included regular consultation with relevant stakeholders, including trade union representatives.

“We are unwavering in our confidence of the University and the future that it holds. RGU caters for over 18,000 students while delivering vital social, economic and cultural contributions to the region and wider nation. These changes will not affect our excellent teaching and learning experience that is among the best in the UK.”

Responding to the news, Russell Borthwick, chief executive of Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce, said both the Scottish and UK governments need to act.

“Universities are facing a perfect storm that makes announcements like this unsurprising and sadly necessary to ensure they remain viable,” he said.

“Funding per student per year of study has fallen by 19% in real terms since 2013–14 and, as a result, Scottish universities became increasingly reliant on international student fees.

“However, the fact that this was only papering over the cracks started to be seen during the pandemic and has worsened since with changes to immigration rules and the associated rhetoric making this country seem unwelcoming to students from overseas.

“We need UK Government to urgently review its position on welcoming overseas students and dependent families to the UK, remove impossible visa thresholds and to keep in place the post-study visa scheme to ensure we can retain the brightest and best talent as part of our future workforce.

“Scottish Government must to work with the sector to address the escalating underfunding of the sector which is the root cause of the situation that has forced RGU along with every university in the land to make the kind of tough decisions we see here.”

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