Sheffield Uni has bought £400k worth of pianos despite staff cuts

What a waste of money

University of Sheffield bosses have been slammed by their staff over the decision to splash the cash on 17 prestigious Steinway pianos, worth £472,000, for the music department.

One staff member told The Tab that the decision was purely a “display of elitism” and an “obtuse gesture made by university executives who are completely out of touch with staff and students”.

The decision was made pre-COVID, and staff were fuming at the time over the waste of money – but with crippling losses from the pandemic, rage has heightened and questions have been asked about why the purchase is still going ahead.

The university said that the pianos will “enhance the student experience”, and that they remain contractually committed to the 2019 purchase. However, amidst sweeping job cuts and a uni tutor warning of devastation to student learning, it’s been pointed out that keeping hold of valuable staff will benefit students more than a few pianos.

“I suspect the truth is that university management would rather have staff members quit under their insulting voluntary severance scheme, cut wages, and eventually fire people under involuntary severance than lose marks of vapid prestige like this,” the member of staff continued.

Others have expressed anger over the “insulting” lack of consultation before the extravagant purchase. An academic staff member in the Arts and Humanities department said: “If students or staff had been asked what the Faculty should spend half a million pounds on, I’m sure staff would have been the priority.

“I am shocked at the amount of money being spent on something that is completely unnecessary. It is completely unclear what sort of scrutiny this decision was subjected to.”

In response to a Freedom of Information request from The Tab, the university listed the reasons for the purchase. They said it means the university will be Steinway accredited, it will enhance experience across the whole student body, upgrade the poor quality existing pianos, and that the pianos will be maintained well and not depreciate in value.

They said this means “significant financial savings for the future,” and described the purchase as “an investment with measurable return”.

The University of Sheffield did not wish to provide further comment on the purchase.

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