By Tomos Evans
A year on from the announcement of the Transforming Cardiff project, Cardiff University is in a “strong financial position” but “to overturn the deficit by the end of the current academic year remains extremely challenging”, according to a University spokesperson.
The five-year strategy was initially proposed as part of an initiative to reduce the University’s deficit. According to Cardiff University’s most recent Financial Report, published last December, the £22.8 million deficit posted by the University in 2017/18 has been reduced to £6.9 million in 2018/19. The University’s ambition is to overturn the deficit by the end of the 2019/20 academic year.
A spokesperson for Cardiff University said that the “strong financial position” has been “helped in part by the growth of both tuition fee income and research income in the last year, and careful management of operating costs. However, increased future pension costs, plus broader economic uncertainties, mean it’s crucial we continue to focus on a financially sustainable future that helps the University achieves its ambitions as set out in the ‘The Way Forward’”.
The proposal for ‘organisational change’ within the University comprises of the ‘five pillars’ – organisational change, transforming services, education, research and estate.
The proposals around ‘organisational change’ included merging the School of Welsh, English, and Modern Languages, to create a new School of Literatures, Languages and Creative Practice.
A Cardiff University spokesperson said, “Proposals continue to be developed to improve the student experience according to this timeline under ‘organisational change’. In the meantime, benefits for our students are already being delivered elsewhere as part of Transforming Cardiff”.
The spokesperson continued, “For example, as part of the Transforming Services’ Library Spaces project, the academic year 2020/21 will see conversion of both the Music and Science Libraries to provide re-modelled spaces to support School learning and teaching activities, and some additional library study spaces”.
The suggestions for streamlining services at Cardiff University were first outlined in February 2019. At the time, the Vice-Chancellor, Colin Riordan, and then-President of the Students’ Union, Fadhila Al Dhahouri, attended a Q&A session responding to questions posed by students.
At the Q&A session, Mr Riordan stated that “there is every opportunity now to engage with staff and students”. A spokesperson for Cardiff University said that the engagement process is ongoing. “Reflecting the size and scope of the changes planned, there have been a number of engagement opportunities for staff and students – and these continue as more related projects and workstreams commence”, they said.
As part of the ‘Transforming Services’ pillar of Transforming Cardiff specifically, Cardiff University says that students have been, and continue to be, consulted. A spokesperson for the University said, “as part of Library Spaces, six face-to-face student engagement events were organised, in addition to ongoing engagement with both the Students’ Union and Academic Schools”. The University also says they received 1,200 responses from students on their needs for Library Spaces, “with students identifying self-service printing, scanning and copying, self-service kitchen facilities and bookable study spaces as their priorities”.
As part of the consultation with staff, the University conducted a ‘Bright Ideas’ initiative which “saw 250 members of staff submit an idea to be shared with the University’s Executive Board, and each received a response”. The spokesperson for Cardiff University added, “as part of Education Service, engagement with staff has been instrumental in shaping the direction of travel” and “as part of Research Support Service, interactive workshops were organised to explore and prioritise some of the main themes coming from staff feedback”.
With the first year of a five-year plan now over, further changes can be expected over the coming months and years.