Edinburgh Uni could lose £150 million in income, Vice-Chancellor warns

There is concern the pandemic will cause a ‘complete collapse’ in international admissions

Edinburgh University could lose £150 million due to a loss of international students, according to the Vice-Chancellor.

There will likely be a significant reduction in the number of international prospective students, whose tuition fees are up to £30,000 a year.

A best case scenario of the drop in international students would be a 25 per cent reduction. A worst case scenario would be a ‘complete collapse’ in the numbers at Edinburgh.

Last year, more than one in four undergraduate students at Edinburgh were from outside the EU meaning their lack of financial contribution would make a considerable dent in the uni’s budget.

The University also stands to lose income from renting halls out to tourists, following the cancellation of Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Pre-pandemic, the Univeristy’s annual income totalled £1 billion and had monthly running costs of around £90 million per month. It was announced last month that the senior management team (including Peter Mathieson) would be taking a 20 per cent pay cut for the next six months. In the same announcement, the uni pledged to top up the money received by furloughed workers (who are unable to work from home) so they would not see a 20 per cent drop in their incomes.

However, he did acknowledge staff wages were one area of spending that could possibly be cut.

Peter Mathieson told BBC Scotland this morning: “We’re trying to be honest and transparent with our staff, so we’ve said that at the moment we’re looking at things like limiting pay rises and limiting promotions in the next academic year because that will save us money.

“We haven’t started talking about redundancies but all universities are looking at their future size and their shape.”

Another possible way to cut costs would be to revise long term spending projects, according to the principal.

“Obviously, if we are receiving smaller number of students and many more of our staff are working from home, which I do anticipate will continue to be the case for some time to come, then we may not need the scale of buildings and facilities that we originally thought we needed.”

He also said that one of the Univeristy’s greatest strengths, its strong reputation across the globe, was now its greatest weakness – especially when compared to less prestigious unis in Scotland.

“Paradoxically the universities which are the most threatened by coronavirus are actually Edinburgh, Glasgow, St Andrews…”, despite thinking that they might be the most able to deal with such threat. These are universities that have the highest proportion of international students.

“Ironically, because our business model depends so much on international students and other events like conferences and catering, which we are able to put on because of our scale, we are seriously threatened.”

These comments come as the education committee of the Scottish Parliament is meeting today to discuss the issue of universities’ funding. At this meeting, the chief executive of the Scottish Funding Council will speak. This public body pays for the places of Scottish students, hence is also a significant source of the University’s income.

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