CGHE Seminar 137

Decision Making by UK University Leaders in Uncertain Times

  • Thursday, 07 May 2020 12:30 - 14:00
  • Room 804, UCL Institute of Education
  • Heather Eggins, University of Cambridge

UK universities have been in a state of uncertainty from the time of the referendum decision of 2016 to leave the European Union. The causes are multiple: the first, and perhaps the most pressing, is the requirement by the Pensions Regulator to reform pensions within the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) which covers staff employed within those universities established before 1992. The current accounting deficit is in advance of £8.4 billion. Employers have proposed changes in the scheme combined with higher contributions from both universities and staff. However, the steep rises in contributions have already caused industrial action; no settlement has been reached; and hence budget planning is affected.

Brexit, and the political uncertainties associated with it, continues to cause anxiety. If a ‘no-deal’ remains a possibility, perhaps at the end of 2020, there will be no access to European Research Council funding, no participation in Erasmus exchange programmes, and a loss of some 125,000 EU students. University budgets cannot escape being affected.

Competition for students has also generated uncertainty, particularly at a time when the 18 year old cohort reaches its lowest level (2019-2020). If an institution does not reach its targets, it loses income.

This seminar examines the range of uncertainties from the point of view of Members of Governing Bodies and Vice-Chancellors who are tasked with maintaining and assuring the financial stability of their institutions in order to enable them ‘to teach, research and innovate’. Based on detailed interviews with university leaders, it examines how the universities are approaching the task, what decisions are being taken, and what modifications are being made to their strategic plans.


All seminars are free and open to the public. No advance booking required.


You can register to watch the livestream of this seminar.

Heather Eggins

Heather Eggins

Heather Eggins is a Fellow Commoner at Lucy Cavendish College, University of Cambridge and Visiting Professor at Sussex University and Staffordshire University UK. She works on higher education policy and is particularly interested in the impact of government decisions on higher education, access issues, quality, and gender. Her latest publications are H. Eggins, editor, The Changing Role of Women in Higher Education (Springer 2017) and ‘The Challenges of Brexit – UK Higher Education Governing Councils Responding to Sudden Change’ in Leasa Weimer and Terhi Nokkala ‘Universities as Political Institutions: Higher Education Institutions in the Middle of Academic, Economic and Social Pressures’ (Brill 2020).

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