The Free University of Brussels ('Vrije Universiteit Brussel,' or VUB) has predicted that it will face a budget shortfall of €14.8 million next year as a result of Europe's soaring energy costs.
According to De Morgen, the VUB's dire financial situation has led it to consider implementing various income-boosting measures, including introducing paid on-campus parking and increasing prices for canteen meals.
The university is also reportedly contemplating several cost-cutting schemes, including organising fewer events, not replacing retiring teaching and administrative staff, firing researchers, and downgrading many employees' contracts from full-time to part-time.
It mostly concerns postdoctoral (and, hence, predominantly younger) researchers who will be most severely impacted by the new measures, according to Jo Coulier, the Chief Representative of the General Labour Federation of Belgium ('Algemeen Belgisch Vakverbond', or ABVV) to the VUB.
- Overwhelming majority of Belgians dissatisfied with wage indexations
- European Central Bank staff angered by 'morale-damaging' pay dispute
"Because their contracts are often of a temporary nature or only provide for a very limited period of notice, they are an easy victim," Coulier said.
Coulier also explained that, although the VUB's funding from the Flemish Government next year will be increased to match the current high rate of inflation, many of the university's other sources of income are not inflation-indexed.
"The VUB must pay the wages of researchers with funds from various European, Flemish, Brussels and private research funds, which still do not follow the inflation rate," Coulier said. According to the VUB, 78,39% of its research funding comes from sources other than the Flemish Government.
A spokesperson for the university sought to downplay the significance of the university's forecast budget shortfall, claiming that, although "the VUB is experiencing the consequences of the energy crisis," the "financial situation of the university is [still] healthy."