THE head of the University of Bolton has said he has had to make “tough choices” after millions of pounds were wiped from its budget.

Vice-chancellor Dr George Holmes said the hike in tuition fees had prompted many students to reconsider a university education while stricter controls on foreign students had also had a severe impact.

But he stressed job losses at the university were “likely” to be fewer than first anticipated.

Dr Holmes said following consultation with staff and unions, 77 posts were likely to be axed compared to the 93 initially proposed.

The university has been attacked by trade unions for making job cuts. And the results of a vote of no confidence in senior management’s handling of the consultation into proposed redundancies should be known in the coming days.

Dr Holmes said: “You have to realise there are 60,000 fewer students nationally this year than last year.

“There are only 89 universities in England, and that equals a loss of half-a-billion pounds to universities.

“Students have applied, but are then not taking up their place.”

He added: “Every university, apart from Cambridge and Oxford, has felt the impact of the new tuition regime.”

The University of Bolton has lost £5 million—10 per cent of its budget — after suffering a loss of just under 200 students. Of that, £1.5 million has been lost because of stricter controls by the UK Border Agency on student visas.

Dr Holmes said: “Either income has to increase or we have to reduce costs.

“Very few affected will be academic staff, and since the consultation the numbers of posts being made redundant is likely to be less after staff put forward strong arguments through the consultation.”

He added that despite redundancies there were plans to expand the university through investment into facilities and new areas.

An advanced performance engineering department is planned, which is being developed in partnership with the private sector, new dental and pharmacy courses are being explored. These will be built in partnership with the health service and Bolton Council.

Dr Holmes said the future of universities lay in partnership working, be it with the private sector or with other universities.

Unions have claimed the university has “failed” to consult with them properly over the planned redundancies and said the job losses would have a “catastrophic” impact on Bolton’s economy.

Dr Holmes added he understood why a vote of no confidence was being taken by staff as it was reflecting their “unhappiness” at the possible loss of their job.

“We are concerned about all the staff and their welfare over the potential redundancies,” said Dr Holmes.

The university is creating an online platform where people wishing to get a university education can do so at a “significantly” lower cost.

Dr Holmes said education was the key to driving the economy forward.

He added: “We are a knowledgebased economy, the low-cost mass production is now based in other countries and there needs to be investment in knowledge to make the country more competitive in international markets.

“The international students who would have come here and spent money in the UK are now going to Australia.

“I think the Government is being short-sighted with this policy because that student always has a link with their university, when these graduate go back home and want to commission research or projects, they would have looked to the UK.”

Dr Holmes stressed universities would not fold or merge, but would have to work in partnership.

He added: “I want this university to be known for its platinum standard courses and good facilities, which we will continue to invest in.”