Whilst prospective students to Imperial may suffer from the budget cuts announced this week, current students may be wondering how they will be affected by the deficit left in next year’s budget. Although experts have argued that teaching quality will suffer, felix looks into how Imperial’s student union will suffer, and effectively any student involved with any of the 300+ Clubs or Societies. Imperial College Union is set to take some slack of nationwide higher education cuts, the second time this has occurred in successive years. Last year, the Union took a 5% cut on the College subvention (money given to them by College the previous year). Next year’s money allocation looks to follow the trend of further financial slashes in light of the HEFCE’s recent announcements.
WHERE WILL THE UNION DECIDE TO TAKE FINANCIAL CUTS? Realistically, there are two options that Union President Ashley Brown can take when deciding where to reshape his budgets to the latest money constraints. He can either create savings centrally, or allocate clubs and societies lower budgets. Central savings refer to staffing and essential overhead costs that help run the Union on a daily basis, and this is what took the brunt of the cuts in this year’s budget. This year, the clubs and societies did not see evidence of the 5% cut received by the Union, as Jenny Morgan, last year’s Union President saw fit to compensate the 5% deficit by the money saved by making a senior member of staff redundant. This year saw a total of £360,000 given directly across all clubs and societies. College’s subvention totals £1.25 million. Another option that the Union has considered is to use the money from Executive Reserve; a pool of ‘back-up’ money that is generally added upon each year and can typically be used for the one-off costs that are necessary during the course of the year. With extra funds added, the Executive Reserve money currently stands at approximately £20,000. Some of the £20,000 will be used to upgrade the Union building’s security, which is currently seriously flawed. In the past months, felix has reported numerous counts of vandalism and suspected break-ins. However, felix can report that the money from Executive Reserve will not make up the latest budget cuts placed on the Union by College for next year.
CLUBS & SOCIETIES SLASHED There will not be much spare cash lying around next year as hundreds of the Union-run Clubs & Societies look set to take a cut on their budgets from last year. As club and society chairs finalise their budget requests for the year 2010-11 this week, there is certainty amongst the Union staff that the vast majority of them will not receive the amount they ask for. February each year usually sees each club or society committee decide on their budgeting requests for the following academic year starting that August. On top of the grants given to each club or society, finance and administration assistance generally equates to about a third of the Union’s overall budget for each year. Mr. Brown acknowledges that there needs to be other ways in which the Union can save money to mitigate the cuts. He said: “We have been looking at other options, such as reducing the amount of paper we generate, particularly around freshers’ week. This has benefits for both environmental and cost reasons, but is comparatively small.”
HOW BIG WILL THE CUTS BE? The simple answer is that no one quite knows, but there will be cuts at least on par with last year. There is speculation that the money donated by College to the Union could be up to 20% less than last year’s allocation. HEFC cuts look to be around 7-8% but the Union President is wary of other uncertain factors. “The worst-case scenario is that a new Conservative government comes in and slashes 10% across the board. That’s where the scary prospect of a 20% cut appears. Cameron has said they wouldn’t do that if elected, but we’ll wait and see,” he said. It has been said that The Union looks set to decide on an initial 15% reduction across the board in response to financial uncertainty. Budgeting officially closes on Monday 8th February for all Clubs & Societies, and treasurers are now having to rethink their budgeting strategies for next year under uncertain circumstances regarding the size of cuts further up in Imperial College’s financial pyramid.