Rally To Be Held Against Cuts at University of Roehampton

Staff protesting against programme closures and redundancies

A picket at the university during previous strike action. Picture: Roehampton UCU


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A rally is to be held this Saturday (9 July) in protest against proposed cuts at the University of Roehampton.

Closure of courses and staff redundancies are planned as the institution attempts to manage finances in the face of reduced funding.

The rally which begins at 10am on the university campus is organised by the Roehampton branch of the University and College Union (UCU), the trade union representing academic and academic-related staff. The campaign has been supported by students, academics, professional bodies and public figures.

Roehampton academics and students oppose management plans to close or cut back courses in Arts, Humanities, Social Sciences, Life and Health Sciences, Psychology, and Education. They say half the academic workforce, 226 academics, will be made redundant, although this number is disputed by management. The union says that those wishing to continue to work will be required to compete for fewer jobs with unmanageable workloads.

Roehampton UCU says says that The University of Roehampton is pursuing the cuts after incurring huge debts on the construction of new buildings and the financial argument the university is using to justify its decision is not valid. It believes that the reasons are ideological, part of a wider plan to refocus post-92 universities on vocational and technical courses while ‘elite’ institutions retain subjects that engage students in critical thinking.

It said on social media “Given the Uni's success with working class students in 'elite' subjects, it's an attack on social mobility based on fake economics”.

Roehampton students, who are mainly local, and have a significant representation of those from less well-off backgrounds and ethnic minorities are generally backing Saturday’s rally. Using the hashtag #RoeStopTheCuts, the student collective RoehamptonStudentProtest wrote on Twitter: “The reason we campaign so hard against these plans is because we know they will be detrimental to the university we love so much.” In another tweet they said: “Incoming students are not being accurately informed of the changes to the courses that are being advertised to them”.

Students recently organised their own demonstration. Delivering letters of protest to the Vice Chancellor, Professor Jean- Noël Ezingeard, they rallied outside his office holding placards with messages such as “Nightmare before Noël l”, “This is NOT the degree we pay £9250 for”, “Making 226 of our lecturers redundant does NOT improve our student experience” etc.

Anouska Lester, a PhD student, wrote on Twitter, “Education shouldn’t just be the privilege of an elite few. For many, studying at Roe is a chance we wouldn’t have had elsewhere. International students save for years and leave their home countries, specifically to study at this university.”

Fleur Anderson, Labour MP for Putney, has expressed her concerns about these plans in a letter to the Vice-Chancellor and has also held meetings with him, with Roehampton UCU and with students.

Bestselling writer and honorary professor at the University, Anthony Horowitz, wrote in The Times that the threatened redundancies are a “positively inhumane attack” and do not seem to make financial sense. Horowitz considers the closure of English literature programmes as “the first stirrings of a very cold wind from the Government”. “Are we really going to be comfortable in a society which has decided that subjects that promote critical thinking and the beauty of language and literature, […] should in the future be reserved only for a privileged elite?”, he asks.

The University of Roehampton disputes the number given for redundancies give be the union saying that the reduction in full-time equivalent posts was expected to be 64 rather than over 200. It has said that evolving student demand and financial challenges due to a range of factors, including caps on regulated tuition fees and the removal of the ‘London Weighting’ element of the teaching grant has required a rebalancing of the courses on offer.

A spokesperson said, “This will involve making some difficult and challenging decisions. If the proposals which are subject to consultation progress, we anticipate a net reduction of around 64 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) academic posts overall. We are doing our utmost to support everyone affected through this period and have established dedicated support services for all our staff, as well as our student community.”

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July 8, 2022

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