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Sheffield Hallam offers academic staff voluntary severance scheme amid financial struggles

Any of the 1,700 staff who chose to accept will have to leave by 29th February 2024 at the latest

On Tuesday, staff at Sheffield Hallam University received an email from Deputy Vice Chancellor Prof David Shepherd announcing a voluntary severance scheme amid the university’s ongoing financial troubles.

In the email, the Deputy Vice Chancellor said the scheme applied to those on teaching, research, senior academic and professor contracts- a total of 1,700 staff.

This comes after an extended period of financial difficulty at Sheffield Hallam, with the university being in a financial deficit for the last several years.

An associate professor in the Department of Culture and Media and also a Hallam UCU spokesperson said of Vice Chancellor Sir Chris Husbands, who left the university this week: “He’s been vice chancellor for seven years and when he joined the university it had really healthy finances, and after seven years, it’s an absolute diabolical situation”.

Sir Chris Husbands received his knighthood in 2018 from Prince William for services to higher education.

In recent years, Sheffield Hallam has committed over £200 million in capital expenditure on projects in Sheffield, and has began building a brand new campus in London as part of efforts to attract more international students.

The voluntary severance scheme opened on the 12th December and will run until the 22nd January next year.

In the email sent to staff, the Deputy Vice Chancellor said further information will be released in the New Year.

Staff are concerned that if they don’t take the offer of voluntary severance, they may face compulsory redundancies in the coming months.

The Hallam UCU spokesperson said: “The timing just before staff are going away, and the fact as well of having to get it in this email yesterday that further information will be released in the New Year- that is all designed to add further pressure to members of staff.”

“It definitely does feel that there’s an atmosphere of fear, you can feel it.”

The voluntary severance scheme offers 10 months of gross pay, with staff having to leave by the 29th February 2024 at the latest.

In a press release, the Sheffield Hallam branch of the University and Colleges Union said: “VSS opened on 12th December 2023 and closes on 22nd January 2024. The speed at which the VSS has been implemented means there will be immediate impact on students at SHU from January 2024. Management have not provided any plan as to how the lectures, seminars, workshops, and other duties of those staff who are accepted for VSS will be covered. The student experience and student learning will suffer as a result.”

A spokesperson for Sheffield Hallam University said: “Sheffield Hallam is one of the largest and most popular universities in the country, yet like many universities across the sector we are experiencing financial challenges due to a combination of increasing costs associated with inflation, rising pension costs, and a flat undergraduate fee.  

 “These combined pressures mean that we must take steps to reduce our costs through careful financial management as part of a plan to remain financially stable in the future. One element of this is a Voluntary Severance Scheme for academic staff which will run in January 2024. In line with normal practice, Trade Unions have been made fully aware of the details of the scheme.” 

Featured image via David White on Unsplash.

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