Important update on our current position and future direction

Our Vice-Chancellor outlines the difficulties that lie ahead due to the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic and gives an update on the steps the University is taking.

Dear colleague,

As we continue to find our way through this unprecedented crisis, I want to give a further update on the University's position and on the steps we are taking.

Firstly, I wanted to say thank you to colleagues across the University. You have shown great energy and initiative in adapting to our new circumstances, so that we are now in a position to deliver the very best education and student experience in the new academic year.

However, despite our best efforts, we have to be realistic about the difficulties that lie ahead. We still don't know how the pandemic is going to unfold and many relevant factors remain unknown. It is highly likely that various restrictions, such as some form of social distancing, will be with us for the foreseeable future. It is most unlikely that we will achieve our student recruitment targets in the autumn, with immediate and serious consequences for the University's finances. We also cannot assume that the government will provide further support for the sector.

The scale of the potential losses is very significant - we are preparing for a £100M reduction in our overall income - and we are doing all we can to protect the University, to protect jobs as much as possible, and to ensure that we retain the capacity to recover.

We have already taken steps to support our financial position. We have stopped all non-essential spend and paused capital expenditure where possible. We have also introduced a Voluntary Severance Scheme, which closes on 1 July. If your personal and professional circumstances allow, please do consider this scheme.

We have now reduced next year's budgets of faculties and departments by 15 per cent. This is a significant reduction, which is going to necessitate considerable change across the University. To achieve it, we are going to have to consider the size and shape of our provision, and we will have to be prepared to stop some of our activities. We have already had to make difficult decisions; our financial position means we have been unable to extend some staff on fixed-term contracts beyond their agreed end date. A cost saving on this scale will bring considerable pressure and challenge, but we have no choice - it is essential if we are to secure the future of the University.

We also have to accept the real possibility that these steps will still be insufficient to protect our financial sustainability. Depending on our student recruitment outcomes in the autumn, it is possible that we will need further measures. Although it is too soon to decide what will be required, we have to ensure now that we will be ready to implement any additional interventions as soon as they become necessary. We will keep you updated at every step.

We face a period in which we are going to make numerous difficult decisions, which will ultimately shape the future of the University of Sheffield. We must not embark on this without a clear sense of purpose and direction. At the end of last year, we asked you for your views on the future direction of the University. The University's Executive Board has used this feedback to develop a new institutional vision and strategy, and we are now ready to complete that work under the usual governance arrangements. We will share the new vision and strategy with you as soon as possible. It will underpin a university-wide, strategic approach to decision making, and help ensure that at all times we will be guided by our vision, core mission and values. We must emerge from this episode with our academic excellence intact, so that people both near and far can continue to benefit from our life-changing research, education, innovation and community work.

I know that many of you will have questions about the University's response and the steps we are taking. I wish I was able to visit departments and talk to you in person. As this is currently not possible, I would ask that you send any questions you have to and we will answer these as best we can.

Thank you again for everything you continue to do.

Koen Lamberts