The University of Ulster will be forced to make significant cuts to its budget as part of stringent financial restrictions imposed by Stormont.
The university, which is the second biggest in Ireland, will be forced to make £17m of savings over the next two years.
Earlier reports suggested that the extent of the damage to the budget would be £3m but that figure will rise as disagreement continues in Stormont over proposed welfare reforms.
Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams is refusing to accept changes to the welfare system proposed by the DUP which would see an annual cap of £27,000 (€34,000) on the amount of benefits that households on welfare can receive. The refusal of Sinn Féin to accept these changes has meant that the Northern Ireland Executive still hasn’t agreed its budget for next year meaning the magnitude of any cuts to universities is still unknown.
The 46-year-old university will reportedly now make a £2m cut to its staffing budget with a leaked letter written by the university’s vice chancellor Richard Barnett indicating that staff redundancies are expected to be the main way of delivering the savings.
It had earlier been suggested that the university was considering cutting the number of student places by 3,000 but it is hoped that the cuts to the staffing budget will mean that the annual student intake will remain around 13,000.
In the letter, Professor Barnett said that the university faces “considerable uncertainty: will the Executive agree a budget and if they do will universities face larger or smaller cuts than those previously indicated?”
He warned of the implications these cuts could have and that “this is a serious underinvestment in the future of our young people by the Stormont Executive”.