Hundreds of jobs could be at risk at the University of York as the higher education provider looks to save £34 million – on top of the £30 million it has already shaved off its budget.

Staff at the Russell Group university were told in April that there would be a “large-scale” voluntary severance scheme to help plug the funding gap.

York’s University and College Union branch estimates that between 300 and 700 staff would have to leave if the savings are to be achieved.

The Press understands that the number is closer to 300.  

Around 6,100 staff are employed at the university which has as an annual turnover of £520 million.

In a statement published on the University and College Union’s website, a spokesperson for the York branch said most staff who leave through voluntary severance – described by the union as an “appalling” scheme – would do so at the end of October – in the middle of the first semester.

“That will inevitably cause disruption to staff and students and affect the university’s ability to deliver contracted teaching to students,” they said.

The union also fears that losing the large number of staff would result in higher workloads, meaning a “considerable risk to the health and wellbeing of the staff who remain”.

“It will inevitably result in a diminished teaching and learning environment for students, and it will damage our community,” the spokesperson said.

A University of York spokesperson told The Press it continues to feel the strain of financial pressures facing the UK higher education sector, adding: “We appreciate this may be an unsettling time for some colleagues and we are doing all we can to protect jobs while ensuring our resilience against continuing volatility.”

They said the university has moved “quickly” to manage its finances and put in place a series of “strategic measures to return to a surplus”.

This, they said, “includes significantly reducing our operating costs, pausing major capital programmes and a voluntary severance scheme”.

“York is one of only four universities to have won the top Gold Teaching Excellence Framework award and be in the top ten in the Research Excellence Framework, matched only by Oxford, Cambridge and Imperial,” the spokesperson continued.

“To protect our position as one of the UK’s top performing universities we need to work differently, focusing time and effort on the highest level research outcomes and the work that brings the most benefit for students.”

'Leave our York alone' urges union

The University and College Union said it is “not against” voluntary severance to reduce the staff budget.

But the York branch spokesperson said it does object to how this is being done, claiming there has been a “lack of meaningful consultation with staff representatives”.

“There is a clear and articulated attempt to make the future look as bleak as possible so as many people as possible will leave,” they said.

The union said the “sheer awfulness” of the actions of the university’s executive board has “inspired” its members to create a song – based on Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall – urging them to “leave our York alone”.