Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Student occupation at London Metropolitan University over job cuts (UCU)

The University and College Union (UCU) today (Tuesday) called for a public enquiry into the failings of London Metropolitan University (LMU) as students from the university staged an occupation of the institution’s Commercial Road building.

The students began their occupation of London’s biggest university at 5pm yesterday (Monday) evening. The full address is 41 Commercial Road, London E1 1LA. Map - http://www.streetmap.co.uk/map.srf?x=534276&y=181346&z=0&sv=E1+1LA&st=2&pc=E1+1LA&mapp=map.srf&searchp=ids.srf

The university faces a bill of over £35m from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) for misreporting the numbers of students completing degrees and responded to the crisis by saying it wanted to get rid of over 550 jobs, which actually leaves 800 staff at risk (one quarter of the workforce).

Last week (Thursday 7 May) UCU members went on strike after the university said it was pushing ahead with a voluntary redundancy scheme that that the union argued had no strategy behind it. The scheme was announced during talks designed to avoid redundancies and, UCU said, left the union with no option but to ballot members for industrial action. Last month the vice-chancellor, Brian Roper, quit, but he will remain on the payroll until the end of the year.

UCU members across the UK are currently being balloted for industrial action over planned job cuts at around 100 universities. The union said that the employers’ organisation’s refusal to act as the crisis over jobs deteriorated had forced it to ballot for industrial action. That ballot result is expected on Friday 22 May.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: “LMU students rightly are concerned about how the severe planned redundancies will impact on their education and for the future of their institution. It’s time the management faced up to their errors and stopped punishing the staff for their mistakes.

“The funding council (HEFCE) has said it will be holding an independent review looking at its involvement in the LMU crisis, and we call for a full independent enquiry into LMU’s finances and how the institution has been run. Any talk of redundancies must be put on hold until after that has taken place.”

LMU has over 34,000 students and is the largest university in the capital. It has a proven track record when it comes to widening participation and has been at the forefront of the government's strategy to open up university to more students from 'non-traditional' backgrounds.

London Metropolitan University – a pioneer for widening participation:

97.3% of LMU students come from state schools or colleges (31st highest in the UK)

42.9% come from lower social economic groups (26th highest in the UK)

51.9% of students at LMU are mature students (5th highest in the UK)

There are 3,565 part-time students at LMU (18th highest in the UK).

*ends*

*contacts:*

Dan Ashley t: 020 7756 2600; m: 07789 518 992; e: dashley@ucu.org.uk

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