x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Threat of 200 job cuts to fund university research

UAE University may shed nearly 200 staff so it can put more money into research programmes without an increase in government funding.

Rory Hume, the provost at UAE University in Al Ain, says the institution is determined to improve its research output.
Rory Hume, the provost at UAE University in Al Ain, says the institution is determined to improve its research output.

UAE University may shed nearly 200 staff so it can put more money into research programmes without an increase in government funding. Another federal institution, Zayed University, has suspended the launch of a research centre because expected funding from a government foundation has not arrived. Officials at UAE University said they might be forced to cut seven per cent of its total staff to strengthen the research staff and launch PhD programmes.

The Government's budget for federal universities for the 2010-2011 academic year has yet to be approved, but officials said they expected the figure to remain constant or shrink slightly from this year's total of about Dh1.29 billion (US$350 million). The UAEU vice chancellor, Dr Abdullah al Khanbashi, said the university had started a review of staffing, although he said this was mainly to look at ways of improving research rather than the budget."It's optimising our resources," he said.

Dr Rory Hume, the provost, said the university was determined to improve its research output and would have to seek reductions in other areas. "People haven't been laid off, but we're planning for the possibility of reductions [in staff numbers] at about the seven per cent level," he said. He said if staff cuts were necessary, the university would try to achieve them through attrition and voluntary redundancies.

A seven per cent cut in UAEU's staff - which currently comprises 818 academic and 1,987 non-academic personnel - would result in about 200 job losses. Dr Hume said the university hoped to keep academic reductions to a minimum, and in particular would try to avoid the loss of Emirati academics. "We are committed to having a high proportion of Emirati staff, so we'll do whatever we can to protect these positions," Dr Hume said.

Any cuts would happen by the start of the 2010-2011 academic year. At Zayed University, the provost Dr Daniel Johnson confirmed that the launch of the university's Centre for the Study of Bilingualism and Bilingual Education was on hold, because expected funding from the National Research Foundation (NRF) had not come through. Dr Johnson said it was "a concern" that funds for the centre had not been provided. "We have unfortunately suspended our planning for that centre because of the lack of NRF funding," he said.

NRF funding was also announced for research centres at UAEU to study water, the environment, genes and diseases. Those programmes have launched, albeit at a more modest level than planned. Dr Ken Wilson, the NRF director, said he was "optimistic" the NRF would receive its budget allocation. "We have received some funding, but we haven't received the funding that we requested. We have projects in the pipeline that we cannot commence until the budget's finalised," he said.

Dr Mark Drummond, the provost of the Higher Colleges of Technology, said it was premature to forecast the institution's budget for next year. No one from the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, which manages the federal institutions, was available for comment. @Email:dbardsley@thenational.ae