DURHAM University has announced plans to cut staff and £15m from its budget as it seeks to attract an extra 4,000 students.

Durham University has launched a voluntary severance scheme in a bid to lower its operating costs.

The university, which is in the process of implementing a ten-year strategy which will see it try to increase student numbers, says the reductions will ensure financial sustainability and enable it to make strategic investment.

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Staff at the university who meet the criteria will be offered the package from Monday.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Stuart Corbridge, who described it as a time of “positive change”.

He said: “By transforming our approach to how we work we will provide better services for our students, staff and partners.

“We are implementing our strategy in a planned and controlled way, and our voluntary severance scheme forms part of this considered approach.”

Stephen Mead, Unison area organiser, which represents non-teaching staff, said: “It’s too early to say what will actually happen to achieve the full £15m. The first step is to issue a voluntary severance scheme.”

“It will be raising concerns with our members so we are holding a series of meeting with the membership so everyone knows what is going on. It’s a period of uncertainty until we know what the final outcomes will be in terms of how the university wants to achieve these savings.”

Similar schemes are understood to have been offered at other universities in the region, including Sunderland and Northumbria, where plans to save £15m meant 112 jobs were lost.

Durham, which has an operating budget of £308m, is understood to want to reduce the number of non-academic staff. It also planning to improve efficiency though greater use of technology, energy efficiency and generating extra income.

Jon Bryan, from the Union of Colleges and Universities (UCU) said: “UCU, along with representatives of the other trade unions – Unite, Unison and GMB – has been made aware of the plans that Durham University has for the future. We have been involved in a number of discussions and consulted about the proposal to introduce a voluntary severance scheme.”