4 February 2016

Massive layoffs to hit research and education


The University of Copenhagen is cutting deep into its staff in response to the Danish government's cutbacks. Even though a great deal of the savings are aimed at administration and service, they will affect the quality of education and research many years ahead

More than 500 teachers, researchers and employees in service and administrative jobs will now be leaving the University of Copenhagen. This corresponds to 7% of all staff. 209 employees can anticipate being laid off while 323 jobs are either discontinued or terminated via voluntary redundancy. In addition to this, the university will have to reduce its PhD intake by 10% in the coming years. This is the outcome of the government’s 2016 Budget which imposes huge savings on research and education.

“Losing so many good employees is a considerable loss of knowledge and competencies. We have found the larger part of the savings within administration and service in an attempt to spare education and research as much as possible. But this also means that important support functions around students, researchers and teachers will lapse or be conducted on a smaller scale. And we will have to reduce our PhD production, which corresponds to cutting into the vital research value chain. This will have a noticeable effect on Danish research capabilities in 5-10 and 20 years’ time," says Rector Ralf Hemmingsen. 

Around half of the positions now being shed have been found through voluntary redundancy. The university’s administration has also suffered significant cutbacks,  with, for example, procurement, the annual celebration and study administration being reorganised. Altogether, the university must save DKK 500 million or the equivalent of around 6% of total revenue. The largest faculties – Science and Health – account for more than 330 discontinued jobs. At the Faculty of Humanities, the number is around 90.   

Uncertain future

For several years, the universities have increased their production on a broad scale while also streamlining to the effect of more than 2% a year. Among other things, this is a result of the government’s annual cut in taximeter funding for education. Since 2010, funding has been slashed by some 10% per student.  But the cutbacks in Budget 2016 have created an entirely new economic framework for Danish universities.

“Despite many years of declining education funding, the University of Copenhagen has managed to maintain a stable economy thanks to a stable basic subsidy, a high level of research and the ability to attract more external funding for the university's activities. Unfortunately, this economic situation has now been changed radically. And politically, we have no security for our budgetary situation in 2019. So we’re going to have to cut to the bone in some places. We’re now reviewing how the organisation goes about solving tasks. And we will see faculties that will need to make further adjustments as a result of local developments in revenue and expenditure,” Ralf Hemmingsen says.

At the moment the university is in the process of assessing how many small language programmes may be offered in the future, just as some of the medical science programmes with expensive equipment, laboratories and stalls will be given a thorough makeover to see if they are financially viable in the future.