Like other universities, the University of East Anglia(UEA) was in financial trouble after the pandemic. However, David Richardson, the Vice Chancellor of UEA after taking a brief pay cut in 2020 re-instated his full pay in early 2021.He then earned 2£83,000 a year, a pay increase of 9.7% from his 2020/2021 salary. This is over twelve times the average pay of UEA staff. Indeed, for university staff pay has dropped by around 25% since 2009.
In addition to his huge salary, Richardson received an expenses allowance and previously resided in a house paid for by UEA worth £1.7 million (which he stopped using as his own residence in July 2021). UEA expenditure on this house included nearly £32,000 worth of garden maintenance work.
Other expenses included 10p spent on two sachets of soy sauce, £63.25 for a visit to Kofra coffee, a Snappy Snaps passport photo, £130 simply on “arts” at The Gallery, Cromer, and a host of business trips to locations including Japan, costing hundreds of pounds which included expensed meals. His total expenses from 2014 to 2018 were £51,880. From July 2018 to January 2020, his expenses amounted to around £15,000. In addition, UEA paid £60,000 to his pension in 2021/22, an increase of £7,000 from the previous year.
In January 2023 UEA announced a £13.9 million loss. UEA warned staff that the situation was far worse with a deficit expected to be £45 million. It blamed its losses on higher energy costs, reduced student numbers and a larger number of dropouts. In particular, the number of overseas students has fallen since the pandemic. In addition, there was a sharp drop in applicants for the coming academic year.
Workloads at UEA have risen rapidly and short-term and casualised contracts have also increased. The average wage of professional services staff and other support staff is £19,612.
On February 27th Richardson resigned and was replaced by Christine Bovis-Cnossen as acting Vice Chancellor. She immediately announced compulsory redundancies.
Bovis-Cnossen was previously named in a 2016 vote of no confidence at Thompson Rivers University. Just under half of the faculty voted, amounting to an overwhelming 81% in support of a lack of confidence in the senior management team.
UEA senior management is looking towards a cut of 113 staff in compulsory redundancies, in addition to so-called voluntary redundancies.
In May the students union council, passed a vote of no confidence in UEA senior management. Unison and University and College Union (UCU) branches similarly passed votes of no confidence.
On 20th June the UEA branch of UCU said that 31 of the 36 cuts in lecturing staff would take place in one department, Arts and Humanities. 77 jobs would be lost in professional services and faculty professional services. 136 jobs were lost through voluntary redundancies with these staff members leaving this August. Their jobs, of course, will not be filled.
Another sign of the viciousness of senior management was its decision in March not to raise the real living wage for the university’s 300 lowest paid staff which includes cleaners and nursery workers. This saved about £300,000, or slightly more than Richardson’s salary.
A new Vice Chancellor, David Maguire, took over on 22nd May. He stated that UEA employed too many people and needed to “right-size.” In a previous job , he published material in favour of increasing online teaching and standardised learning packages. This may well be the way he proceeds at UEA.
The UCU branch was meeting on 22nd June to discuss strike action. In the meantime students have organised rallies and demonstrations against the cuts.
The UEA is a major employer in Norfolk and the redundancies will have catastrophic effects on the region.