UT expects sizeable deficit this year

| Rense Kuipers

The UT expects to post substantially redder figures than budgeted this year: a deficit of some 13 million euros. Main causes are increased energy prices, lower enrolment numbers and the incomplete spending of millions from the National Education Programme.

Machteld Roos, vice-president of the UT's executive board.

As in 2021, the UT budgeted a deficit of almost 8 million euros. Last year, UT 'only' recorded a small deficit, mainly because vacancies could not be filled. While this year a deficit of 7.6 million euros is budgeted - due to investments, it threatens to rise to 13.1 million euros, according to the university's latest management report.

Energy costs

That difference is largely due to increased energy costs. Whereas UT budgeted 4.4 million euros, those costs are expected to rise to 11.5 million euros this year - a difference of more than 7 million euros. 'The increase in energy prices works its way into many things,' says Machteld Roos, vice-president of the Executive Board. 'We have been working for some time to make our buildings on campus more sustainable and energy efficient because of our ambitions in this area. This obviously also helps to dampen price effects, such as now with the energy costs. For the short term, discussions are ongoing at national level to see if these negative effects can be (partly) compensated. In doing so, we are addressing as many parties as possible who can influence this.'

However, it is clear that the shoe is already pinching in several places. For instance, in the same management report, the NanoLab notes that rising energy costs are a 'serious threat'. The fear is that (commercial) users will pull out if energy costs are passed on one-to-one. 'It is good that these concerns are made known,' Roos responds. 'We cannot simply compensate deficits in commercial activities with public funds. However, we can enter into discussions and see what is possible, such as reducing energy consumption. In any case, it is important that we try to reduce our energy consumption UT-wide wherever possible.'

Corona support fund

Other hefty cost items include lower influx ( 2.2 million euros less than budgeted) and the pace at which UT spends the ‘corona support fund’ – the National Education Program. 'That pace is slower than planned,' explains Finance director Dennis van Zijl. 'We had expected to spend about 4 million euros of that budget this year. But we can spread that over the next two years and spend it effectively.'

'Even if that means 4 million euros lower income for this year, fortunately we can just carry it over to subsequent years and thus match it with expenditure. That is according to the agreements with Minister Dijkgraaf,' Roos adds. 'We don't want to spend the available money hastily, but gradually and thoughtfully.'

Incidentally, the UT's deficit could have been even higher, had it not been for a substantial financial windfall of more than 9 million euros. However, this is 'paper profit', Van Zijl explains. 'It concerns a fund that falls under the UT's holding. The period during which this fund was subject to a repayment obligation expires in 2022. That causes a release of our obligation, which has to be credited to the result. This is purely accounting; there is no cash flow. You can, however, speak of an accounting - or paper - profit. And the UT Holding will simply continue to use the fund for the same purpose as before.'

No cause for concern

The expected red figures are no cause for concern, according to Van Zijl and Roos. 'As long as you break even over several years, it is good. We have been mostly writing positive results in recent years, so this is absolutely not a cause for concern.' Roos adds that UT is looking for more staff. 'Like last year, we are still slightly behind targets. Fortunately, we are an attractive employer, so we manage to fill vacancies very decently, although continued hard work on recruitment is needed.'

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