Covid-19 update: Dr David Prout

Dear colleagues,

I hope you are well and are coping with this most extraordinary of Trinity terms. No May balls, no sub fusc, no celebrations as the academic year comes to an end. But as I know from my sample of one neighbour, a first year English student, our academic standards are as high as ever and he is busily writing three essays every two weeks and attending virtual tutorials.

That drive to educate – and our research which is never off the radio – are the meat and drink of the University. In another corner of the wood we continue to look at the financial consequences of the COVID disaster. We are working on the basis of a fairly benign scenario whereby the University (research and education) is open for business in a changed world in the autumn. 

But even with this scenario we anticipate a loss of many tens of millions of income in particular reductions in fee income from overseas students, research grants, investments and trading (primarily through our museums and in our publishing activities in the Press). 

Divisions, departments and colleges are working hard to create new budgets for 2020/21. In departments, the museums and libraries and the administrative service we are looking to maximise income (for example by using the furlough scheme and by recruiting replacements for our lost overseas students); cut non-pay costs where possible; limit pay costs and avoid unnecessary additional expenditure. At University level we will also be postponing some capital expenditure and thinking very hard about any additional commitments. It is highly likely that we will need to dip in to reserves to bridge an anticipated gap between income and expenditure.

No-one knows what will happen next. It is possible that the pandemic will ebb away . . . but it is also possible there will be a second wave, which may hit as students come back in the autumn. Financially we need to be ready for that, but possibly more important is the work being done to plan for a ‘socially distanced’ autumn term. That is essential if the University is to remain open and functioning, but it is also essential for the health and well-being of colleagues and students. Everyone is working hard on these emergency plans at the same time as getting lab research back up and running and conducting teaching and exams in this strangest of times.

With best wishes to everyone, 

David Prout