|Campaign Launched Against University of Roehampton Cuts|
Union and academics believe Arts and Humanities being targeted as policy
A campaign has been started against plans reportedly being made by the University of Roehampton to reduce its staff budget by £3.2 million.
The University and College Union (UCU) claim that this would threaten over 180 jobs mainly in the Schools of Arts and Humanities and will come on the back of headcount reductions made earlier this year when voluntary redundancies were offered. The amount of jobs at risk is disputed by the University.
It has been suggested that the cuts are driven by a government policy of reducing the number of arts and humanities courses at modern universities set up since 1992 with the aim of concentrating the study of those subjects in Russell Group universities.
An online petition against cuts has been launched and has already received over 4,000 signatures.
The UCU claims that the cuts were considered necessary because of fears of falling student numbers but, in fact, this year there have been record levels of enrolments for both graduate and undergraduate courses. They quote Vice Chancellor Jean-Noel Ezingeard, as saying “student numbers for the 2020/21 academic year will be better than expected earlier in the summer”.
Staff representatives from UCU, the trade union representing 120,000 academic and academic-related members nationwide, say they are completely opposed to any redundancies and believe this decision is not due to financial problems caused by the pandemic, but to a longstanding plan to restructure.
Linda Cronin, UCU branch chair for the University of Roehampton, said that planned cuts threatened one in five academics in the two departments impacted.
“We are already in dispute with the University over job losses, pay cuts and escalating workloads, which the University have refused to talk to us about. The next step is to consult our members about taking industrial action,” she said.
On 29 September, Boris Johnson announced the government’s plans for a Lifetime Skills Guarantee and a promise to fund technical courses. Roehampton academics fear that the Government is pressurising modern Universities, like the University of Roehampton, to shift their focus back towards skills based education, whilst subjects in the Arts and Humanities, such as English, History, Languages and Classics will increasingly be only taught at Russell Group Universities, which have traditionally attracted more affluent students. They believe that such a move would deepen social inequality in the country.
A spokesperson from the University of Roehampton said: “For the past few months we have been implementing a recovery plan to address the severe financial impact from the Covid-19 pandemic and we need to continue on this path to secure our long-term growth.
“To support our long-term sustainability, we are planning to make savings in the Schools of Arts and Humanities where there has been a decline over a number of years in student numbers both nationally and at our own institution. These measures will put the Schools on a more sustainable footing to secure their longer-term future and also allow the University to invest in academic areas where the student population is growing
“For that reason the University Council has endorsed a proposal to reduce the academic payroll by £3.2m from these Schools to bring them back onto a sustainable path. We have reopened a voluntary severance scheme for the academic staff from these two Schools and we are reviewing the academic portfolios of these Schools. The significant majority of the 175 academic staff employed across both Schools will continue in roles even if the proposals are implemented fully. We are supporting all those potentially affected throughout this process.
“Despite the savings we must make, we continue to be committed to the arts and humanities as they play a vital role in our future. We are living and working through the most uncertain and unprecedented time in recent history and we need to act promptly and decisively to secure our future sustainability.”
October 16, 2020