University commits to safeguard jobs despite COVID-19 impact

31 March 2021

Aberystwyth University has committed to continue investing in its workforce and estate, despite significant additional COVID-19 costs in 2019/20.

The University’s Financial Statements for the Year Ending 31 July 2020, published online Tuesday 30 March, report losses of over £5m as the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in additional costs and lost income.  However, Vice Chancellor, Professor Elizabeth Treasure said that the COVID-19 losses will not necessitate job losses or restructuring.

The losses include the significant fall in accommodation fee income, loss of conference and other trading income, the costs of adapting campus, implementing additional cleaning, and the costs of taking on additional staff to help with teaching workload. 

Professor Treasure commented: “Aberystwyth University has achieved its budget in the last two years and was on target to do so again in 2019-2020. This would have been the first year it had achieved an operating surplus since 2013-14 as a result of our programme of measures which have succeeded in putting our finances on a sustainable footing. However, in common with institutions throughout the higher education sector and beyond, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant financial impact on the University.

“The costs have been large, but we deem them to be relatively short-term – a view confirmed by our external auditors.  This means that they do not in any way reflect negatively on the long-term financial sustainability of the University. 

“Indeed, the University intends to continue investing in its workforce and estate as we look towards the end of the pandemic.  Budgets will be tight, but as long as our recruitment targets are met, we see no reason to plan for restructuring, staffing reductions or downscaling of our teaching and research facility developments as a result of these COVID-19 associated losses. 

“Our plans to grow as a University will therefore continue.”

The report notes a number of major successes.

The University continues to be recognised for its outstanding teaching and research.

The Times and Sunday Times awarded Aberystwyth ‘Welsh University of the Year’ and the University achieved the highest score in overall student experience of any university in Wales or England in the 2019 National Student Survey.

Development of the academic portfolio continued with the first admissions to an innovative, integrated Initial Teacher Education programme with both primary and secondary pathways, seeing the return of primary teaching training to Aberystwyth.

The agreement with the Royal Veterinary College for the dual degree in Veterinary Medicine together with the appointment and arrival of the first Professor in the discipline completes a long-held ambition first reported in 1891.

The University has also appointed to the role of Head of Nursing as it progresses its bid to bring nursing to Aberystwyth University.

The Old College project was successfully awarded the second stage Heritage Lottery Fund of £9.7 million as well as £7 million from Welsh Government and European funding.

During the year, work progressed significantly on two major projects that have since opened their doors; Pantycelyn halls of residence, and Aberystwyth Innovation and Enterprise Campus (AberInnovation).

Aberystwyth continues to invest to meet its strategic goals, specifically the long-term provision of excellent teaching and research including the associated capital investment that underpins those objectives.

Professor Treasure continued:  “Despite the clearly significant impacts of COVID-19, during the 2019/20 year, progress was still achieved in a number of areas.  This is down to the fantastic efforts of our staff whose commitment and dedication have shone through in so many ways during this most challenging year.  My heartfelt thanks go out to them all, as we look forward to safer times ahead.”