Oxford Brookes University is currently facing a third round of Voluntary Severance (VS). In the first round, in November 2023, the Vice Chancellor’s Group (VCG) decided to close the Music department through a teach-out of the current cohort and by making a Reader and Professor redundant this year. Specific departments in Arts, Humanities, Social Sciences and Maths were targeted with VS and redeployment, and 48 people were at risk. Around 20 people left in January, and several departments made large collective sacrifices by proposing fractional contracts to save posts. The second round of VS saw more departments included, and about 8 people left. 

In the current third round, over 800 people have been sent a VS letter across all four faculties. The VCG now says it needs to make £6.5m savings, or 5% of staffing costs. This could mean well over 100 people leaving by the summer, and more savings in the next academic year have already been announced as necessary. On top of staff cuts, the VCG is pushing changes to workload planning tariffs, reductions in research hours, and potentially a major restructuring.

Since the third round was announced by email to all staff on 19/03, and despite these staggering numbers, no meeting has, to this date (18/04), been organised by the VCG or the faculty Deans. There is no doubt that there is a national crisis in the UK today facing all universities, and especially post-1992s. As of today, over 40 universities are facing cuts, closures, and restructurings. 

External factors as well as inflation are contributing to this. Yet Brookes’ UG student numbers increased from last year, and staffing costs have not increased. Up to now, we’ve been considered a healthy university.

So why is Brookes suddenly in such a bad financial situation?

Is it as bad as they say? Yes, but for very different reasons than those claimed by VCG

Has it been mismanaged? Yes. For a longer financial analysis, see:

Here are some reasons why:

  • Brookes has one of the highest levels of external borrowing in the UK as percentage of total income (92.3%) according to HESA’s 20/21 data.
  • This debt is due to a range of questionable expenditures including estate development (student housing, new buildings and facilities, acquisition of new properties) financed by loans involving strict covenants. These were bad bets
  • Overambitious recruitment targets: for example, in June 23, the VCG budgeted, based on faculty projections, with a 21% increase in PG recruitment for 23/24. These projections inform future investments and give creditors a false sense of the university’s potential finances.

SAVE OUR BROOKES! What can we do? We need:

  • Transparency: better communication on the financial situation and a policy to ‘open the books’
  • A pause on any major capital investments and reversal of new plans
  • Prudent recruitment targets that do not lead to further financial gambling
  • Reduce costs of VCG through senior management pay cuts
  • Establish a Joint Staff Committee where staff and unions have actual negotiating power with management and with accountability for management’s decisions
  • Establish a robust and contractually binding working hours and duties agreement 
  • Support national call for reinstating a student cap and pressure VCG to lobby UCEA and Government



Help us develop a new model of financial viability that includes staff and students in decision-making, make sure VCG negotiates with us locally on workloads, organise nationally with other branches.

JOIN UCU ( to help us build this vision and pressure the VCG and the Board of Governors. This branch achieved important concessions this year but we could achieve so much more if more people join us.

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