|University of Roehampton Staff Back Strike Ballot|
Vote of no confidence in in the Vice Chancellor and the Provost to be held
As part of their response to job cuts at the University of Roehampton, academics working at the institution have voted in favour of a ballot for industrial action and vote of no confidence in Vice Chancellor and Provost as well as a review of senior management salaries.
In a meeting of members of the University and College Union (UCU),held on 21 October, motions supporting these three actions were passed with majority votes of close to 90%.
The union claims that Vice Chancellor Jean-Noël Ezingeard and Provost Anna Gough-Yates have ignored cost-saving proposals put forward by its negotiators since May and instead opted for significant job cuts in the Schools of Arts and Humanities.
A recent decision to cut £3.2 million from the staffing budget primarily threatens jobs of staff in the Schools of Arts and Humanities, just after a large number of their colleagues left the University, following a formal invitation by management to accept voluntary redundancies. The union says that the cuts are part of a long-term strategic cull of the Arts and Humanities at the University.
Furthermore, UCU members suggested that it is unethical to demand of academic staff pay reductions of 10% (or an optional 25%) while members of the Senior Management Team retain six figure salaries and pay packets – in some cases – in excess of £200,000.
Putney MP, Fleur Anderson, expressed her support saying, “I join with Roehampton staff and students who are opposing cuts to the Arts and Humanities department staff - English Universities are still not getting the government support they need”.
Choreographer Akram Khan, the University’s Pro-Chancellor called the cuts “unconscionable” and tweeted, “Cut down buildings if necessary, but not the wisdom of the art department that gives us important context and relevance to living in this world. If you take away the voice of the arts, then what is left?”
Art historian and BBC presenter Sir Simon Schama tweeted, “Appalled and depressed by U of Roehampton's proposed massive cuts to arts and humanities. Why are they always the sacrificial lambs when they are the fountainhead of the creative industries which are the great success story of UK?”
So far, several associations and organisations have expressed their opposition to the Vice Chancellor’s policy, including the Council for University Classics Departments, Women's Classical Committee UK, Oral History Society, BIAPTheology, Hellenic Society and Roman Society, Independent Dance, Chisenhale Dance Space, and OneDance UK.
Students of the University of Roehampton are actively opposing the announced plans. Their online petition (Stop £3.2 million cuts to Arts & Humanities at University Of Roehampton) is approaching 10.000 signatures.
The Roehampton Student Union expressed their concern for the students who will be affected by the announced cuts and said they will hold a series of meetings with the university’s management to ensure the interests of students are protected.
The Schools of Arts and Humanities include the Department of Dance, the most highly rated dance department in the country, with 94% of its research judged world-leading or internationally significant in the last REF evaluation, and the Classics courses, which were ranked fifth in the UK in the Guardian league table 2020, with exceptionally high scores for teaching satisfaction (96%) on a par with Durham and St. Andrews and a recent score of 100% in student satisfaction (National Student Survey).
The English and Creative Writing Department is the most research-intensive unit in the University with many of its staff having earned prizes and honours and is home to a number of research centres, including the National Centre for Research in Children's Literature, the Centre for Research in Romanticism, the Roehampton Poetry Centre, the Popular Literature and Culture Research Centre, Early Modern Research Group, the new Centre for Fenland Studies, and others.
Although the Vice-Chancellor claims that the two schools will not close, staff and students are concerned that any loss of staff will be detrimental for students and their learning environment and will undermine the quality of teaching and research.
A spokesperson from the University of Roehampton said: “The proposal endorsed by the University Council to make savings in our Schools of Arts and School of Humanities, where there have been a decline over a number of years in student numbers both nationally and at our own institution, is a necessary step to address the severe financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and support our long-term sustainability.
“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.”
November 2, 2020