AN MSP has called on Aberdeen University to ensure staff and students do not “bear the brunt” of any recovery plan, as it was revealed the university is facing extreme financial pressures.

Maggie Chapman, Scottish Greens MSP for the North East and former rector at Aberdeen University, said the situation was “very concerning” and is a consequence of “underfunding”, “undervaluing” and “some questionable decisions” made by the university.

It comes as the university’s most recent accounts revealed “significant doubt” over its future as a result of a series of financial uncertainties.

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In its annual accounts, the university suggested it could not guarantee it would be able to continue as a going concern for the next 12 months.

Chapman (below) said the situation would be “very concerning for students and staff”, but that it did not develop “overnight”.

The National: Maggie Chapman

“It is a consequence of long-term underfunding and undervaluing of higher education, and some questionable decisions by the university, some of which were apparent even when I was rector,” she said.

"The cynical reliance on international students as cash cows to boost revenues was never going to work, especially with the backdrop of a Tory Brexit that has acted as a block to students moving to Scotland.”

Chapman, who held the position of rector from 2014 to 2021, called on university management to work with students and trade unions to ensure “they are not made to bear the brunt of any recovery plan”.

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The university faced severe backlash last year when it announced plans to axe modern languages courses and jobs, with more than 18,000 people signing a petition urging a rethink.

It has since opened a voluntary severance scheme, with members of the local University and College Union (UCU) branch announcing they intend to launch a “formal dispute” over the university’s failure to rule out compulsory redundancies for staff.

Aberdeen’s student newspaper, The Gaudie, reported that senior vice-principal Karl Leydecker informed staff last week the university was “getting closer to achieving its goal of reducing staff costs by £12m”, with 240 applications for voluntary severance and enhanced retirement schemes.

‘Grasp that with both hands’

Chapman said there were “big questions” about what the university exists to do.

“Higher education cannot only be seen as a mechanism to produce workers for the labour market,” she said.

The National:

“We must also support individuals and communities to reach their potential and to support the betterment of society as a whole.”

Chapman added: “Aberdeen university has a key role to play in supporting all aspects of life in the North East. It should grasp that with both hands.”

Commenting on its annual accounts, a spokesperson from Aberdeen University said: “The University of Aberdeen has been around for over 500 years.

"We are very confident that with continued agile, effective action we will survive and thrive, whatever the challenges facing the higher education sector.”