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Actions being taken on our finances to mitigate against impact of Covid-19

15 Jun 2020

A message from President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Nancy Rothwell


Dear colleague

I have written previously to you about how the pandemic will have a significant adverse impact on our financial position, as it is doing on universities across the world. It is very likely that we will lose about 15% of our total income and we could lose as much as 25% of that income if there is a major reduction in students coming to study with us from outside the UK.

We must not underestimate the severity of the financial challenge we face in the next financial year which begins on 1 August, and over the longer term.

We have already communicated some of the ways in which we are reducing expenditure, including pay costs such as promotions and regrades, pausing recruitment to non-essential posts, and non-pay costs such as the postponement of MECD’s opening.

In this message I want to share with you how we are working to mitigate the financial impact in three other ways: our enhanced student recruitment activity, the voluntary measures we have made available to colleagues, and discussions with Government and partners about support.

Student recruitment

We have been allowed by Government to recruit an extra 5% home/EU undergraduate students, along with applying for additional numbers in some healthcare and STEM subjects, and we are seeking some extra postgraduate taught students. We should not underestimate the intense competition for well-qualified students this year and thus what this will mean for our recruitment effort.

Providing an attractive offer is at the forefront of our recruitment efforts and Professor April McMahon, Vice-President for Teaching, Learning and Students, has been working with colleagues from across the University to put in place arrangements for the next academic year. Recruitment activities include:

  • Communicating regularly with prospective and current students on term dates, their studies next year and the kind of safety and support measures we are putting in place, including the additional provision we are making for widening participation students; 
  • Greater use of data and insight and increasing the role of our alumni to act as advocates;
  • The creation of new platforms including: offer holder web pages, webinars on the Manchester Live platform, ‘lockdown lectures’ with high-profile academics, and expanding the Unibuddy platform to connect prospective with current students;
  • A new campaign, ‘Manchester’s Here for You’, will target late undergraduate and postgraduate taught entry 2020, and for 2021 entry, a June virtual open week for undergraduates with a postgraduate taught one to follow.

We have had numerous meetings with important local and international partners such as:

  • The Chinese Consul General (who is based in Manchester) and the incoming British Ambassador to China, to understand the concerns of Chinese applicants and for us to emphasise the support we make available
  • Marketing Manchester, The Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham and Sir Mike Deegan, Chief Executive of the Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, as we seek to showcase the city as a safe place to live and study, and Manchester Airport, to provide support to international students to reach us safely, easily and cost-effectively

Voluntary measures

Last month we opened voluntary measures for colleagues to consider – a voluntary severance scheme, voluntary salary reductions, unpaid leave and reduced working hours.

At time of writing we have received 197 voluntary severance applications, which are being considered. Thirty-five colleagues have taken up the other measures available.

We have introduced these measures to help to mitigate the scale of further action that will likely be needed in the near future and when we know the full impact on our student numbers in October 2020. These measures have also been introduced in response to enquiries from colleagues who have asked if there are any ways in which they can help towards addressing our current financial situation.

Some of these options close on 31 July, so please look at the information we have provided and consider whether any of them fit your personal circumstances.

Government and partners

The nature of any future Government assistance to universities is uncertain and I must be clear while I hope this will be forthcoming it will not solve the problems we and the sector face.

However, there are many potential ways in which Government may be able to assist us and I have been having many constructive meetings with ministers and senior civil servants including Michelle Donelan, Minister for Universities, and Amanda Solloway, Minister for Science.

We have been able to make a strong case on many of our priorities, including research and international and domestic student recruitment. We have made the point, that Government acknowledges, that research is not fully funded, and hence the shortfall has to be met by universities’ own funds. Loss of international students seriously undermines this. Many of our proposals have been well received but we do not have any commitments as yet.

This activity is accompanied by frequent and regular discussions between Government and the Russell Group and Universities UK. Senior staff from the Treasury and Gavin Williamson, Secretary of State for Education have been present at our meetings.

My SLT colleagues and many others have met with partners such as UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the local and national NHS, and charity funders like Cancer Research UK.

Locally, we are meeting with the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, including Andy Burnham, where we re-emphasised the importance of international students to the city-region, Greater Manchester’s other Vice-Chancellors and Manchester City Council. This activity will help us coordinate welcome activity, arrivals at the airport and testing.

Although our present needs take precedence, we have also been discussing our role in the economic recovery of the region and in addressing social inequalities once the pandemic is over. For example, the skills agenda, ID Manchester and advanced manufacturing.

My senior colleagues and I will update you as we continue to explore every possible opportunity to mitigate against the situation we find ourselves in and ensure we have the funds to offer our students an excellent education and experience, perform high-quality research with impact and maintain our commitment to social responsibility.

Nancy Rothwell

President and Vice-Chancellor

Further information: