By Hallum Cowell
Welsh universities’ budget problems continue to escalate as their costs and debts increase while their incomes decrease. In a report from the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales it has been revealed that Welsh universities have collectively accumulated £16 million worth of debt. Brexit, economic uncertainty and global competition for students are among the factors blamed for this deficit.
The spokesperson for Cardiff University College Union, Andy Williams, commented, saying: “These figures just confirm our current campaigning priorities. Cardiff University and others are spending and borrowing too much, in large part to fund flashy capital expenditure projects and bloated executive pay. To balance the books, they then cut jobs and downgrade our pensions.”
The report covered all universities in Wales and found that some universities were operating at as surplus, such as the university of South Wales and Swansea University while Cardiff University, operated at a deficit of £8.716 million. However, this is not a problem only Cardiff is facing with the University of Wales: Trinity Saint David operating in a £25.530 million deficit and many more universities across the United Kingdom seeing their budgets enter deficits.
Nick Hillman, head of the independent think tank, the Higher Education Policy institute said, “There is a perfect storm ahead, thanks to demographics, higher borrowing costs and shortfalls in pension funds [and] the biggest potential problem of all, which is the Brexit shenanigans.
“The numbers in the report are an important and salutary reminder that universities are not guaranteed to thrive or survive in all circumstances.”
Numbers of students attending Welsh universities fell by 6.3% in 2018 with less than half those studying in Welsh universities coming from Wales. This was largely blamed on the appeal of apprenticeships and the debate over whether university is value for money.
The strike last year over staff pensions has also been mentioned as a factor in this budgetary uncertainty for adding to economic disruption and misfortune. Currently, there the possibility of 2 more strikes by university staff in 2019 exists. Cardiff University has also blamed the fact that fees for university in Wales, £9,000 per year, are not allowed to be as high as those in England, £9250 per year.
This news comes soon after the controversial Transforming Cardiff plan was revealed, something which led to numerous students and members of staff resisting its proposed changes which ranged from mergers for academic schools and staff redundancies.