THE University of Chester is at ‘high risk’ because of savage government funding cuts, academics have warned.
Research has put the institution on the danger list along with 26 others nationwide.
They are all at high risk of closure, or merger, primarily because of the shock withdrawal of the bulk of their teaching budgets, the University and College Union (UCU) said.
Under government plans, income will be replaced by hiking student fees to as high as £9,000 depending on a crunch Commons vote today (Thursday).
The University of Chester has rejected the fears despite anticipating an 87% cut in its teaching budget, losing £20m of its £23m.
The vice chancellor, Professor Tim Wheeler, said: “While I am sure the report was well-intentioned, to suggest that this particular university is under threat in any way is a work of emotive fallacy.
“It is well documented that the withdrawal of a significant proportion of our teaching budget will create challenges, but we are confident that we will be able to weather the storm, given our strong financial position.
“The report, which is politically motivated, sensationalist and unhelpful in conclusion, has a very dubious research base, which lacks validity and reliability.”
Mr Wheeler described the basis of the findings on an ‘arbitrary choice’ of factors.
They are: reliance on public funding, public funding for ‘non-priority’ subjects, the number of students from the poorest backgrounds and reliance on non-EU students’ fees.
He added: “As any accountant knows, what should be of the greatest concern, but which does not feature in this report, is the strength of a university’s balance sheet and whether it has been generating a surplus on its activities.
“In this regard, the University of Chester has had surpluses for the past three financial years of £5m and in the last year saw its balance sheet strengthened by £10m, taking into account all its liabilities.
“The university has a long-held reputation for prudent management, good governance and leadership, and has already made contingency plans to deal with the projected loss of income.
“There are, and will be, challenges to overcome, as the way in which the university is funded changes radically over the next four years.
“However, although circumstances will be tough nationally, and there will certainly be an increasing number of challenges for us to overcome, I am confident that the values, character and integrity of the University of Chester will be protected.”