The University of Groningen Executive Board will implement a package of austerity measures to close a budget deficit caused primarily by high energy prices, RTV Noord reports.
Desperate for funds to cover its spiraling bills, the school plans to press ahead with its energy conservation effort, sell off properties, and shut down facilities that are not essential for education and research. Together, these measures are expected to result in a saving of some €20 million over the next 4 years.
Board leaders indicated the deficit did not come as a surprise and that they are expecting financial challenges to persist in coming years based on current trends. “By 2024, we want to save 10 million euros. A saving of 15 million will be made the following year, and then, by the end of 2026, we’ll save 20 million,” vice-president of the board Hans Biemans says.
“Right now, everything is on the table. Everything is negotiable. There are no taboos,” Biemans emphasizes. “Our main concern is: are we doing the right things and are we doing those things well.”
The school says it is committed to ensuring that budgets cuts are not made to the detriment either of the student experience or the quality of education. According to Biemans, post-graduate studies and research will be largely unaffected by the cost-cutting measures. The students have already noticed, however, that the temperature in a few buildings has been turned down a notch. Biemans said the reduction of the internal temperatures has led to few complaints and issued a request for further cooperation with the school’s energy-saving effort.
The board expects that, through smarter planning, no more extra spaces, such as the main hall of Pathé cinema, will have to be rented in the future. “We’ll take a critical look at our own processes. We’ll probably have to invest in ICT so that we are able to achieve the necessary savings in other places,” says Biemans.
RUG also plans to sell off a number of buildings in the city center. These properties guzzle energy, and their maintenance costs have escalated recently. In anticipation of the move, the school announced last month that it would divest the Van Swinderen Huys. The historical building was used for conferences, meetings and social gatherings.
Last December, RUG forecast a €52 million budget shortfall, mostly attributed to rising energy bills.
The university’s total operating budget for fiscal year 2023 is approximately €900 million.