Friday, 24 April 2009

Fury as ‘arbitrary’ axe falls on campus staff (Islington Tribune)

Islington Tribune - by TOM FOOT
Published: 24 April 2009

Fury as ‘arbitrary’ axe falls on campus staff

Departments face closure at crisis-hit university

A LIST of academic posts facing the chop at crisis-torn London Metropolitan University has been released to the Tribune.

The document reveals detailed plans to close entire departments and to make redundant lecturers in the humanities, arts, languages and education faculty.

It follows an announcement that 550 full-time posts – one in four of the university’s staff – will be axed at its Holloway and City campuses.

The measures are part of a “90-day rescue package” introduced after more than £38million in government funding was wrongly claimed by the university over three years.

Courses in French, Irish, Caribbean, theatre and women’s studies are facing closure, while professors and lecturers in the education and Spanish departments are singled out in the “staff reduction proposals”.

Journalism, performing arts and creative writing departments will be spared.

One senior lecturer told the Tribune this week: “There does not seem to be any rationale behind keeping particular posts and getting rid of others. It is completely arbitrary.

“People believe some faculties are being targeted out of personal vendettas. There is some really nasty stuff going on and there is a state of huge anxiety in the university.”

London Metropolitan University College Union (UCU) and Unison members voted unanimously to ballot for industrial action after the list was emailed to all staff before Easter.

The results of the ballot will be announced on Wednesday and the strike – which could involve more than 1,000 academics and staff – is expected to take place on May 7.

Barry Jones, regional coordinator for UCU, which represents more than half of the academic staff at London Met, said: “We are balloting for a strike because we are not happy with the way the situation is progressing. Management has initiated a voluntary redundancies scheme, which we do not agree with.”

London Met was thrown into turmoil in January following an audit by the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

The government’s funding authority discovered false claims of at least £38million over three years for students who had dropped out before finishing their courses.

Higher education funding is dependent on students completing courses.

London Met said at the time: “This will impact on the university’s cash flow and reduce the cash available to pay ongoing operational costs.

“It is important that cost savings are achieved as soon as possible to preserve the university’s available cash.”

Vice-chancellor Brian Roper quit following a series of protests outside the university in Holloway Road.

The university takes hundreds of students from disadvantaged backgrounds, giving them a chance to study a range of subjects for free.

Islington North Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn has called for the university’s debt to be cancelled to help people from poorer backgrounds find work during the recession.

Higher education minister David Lammy, responding to a question from Mr Corbyn in the House of Commons on Wednesday, said: “London Metropolitan University is exceeding the benchmarks for young people participating from both state schools and colleges and from lower socio-economic backgrounds.”

Lecturers, teachers and students will march from City University in Northampton Square, passing London Met in Holloway Road, and ending with a rally and speeches at Archway Tower, in a demonstration against the cuts on May 23.