Arts and humanities cuts ‘becoming endemic’, warns UK union

UCU ramps up criticism after announcements on cost-cutting programmes

五月 20, 2022
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Cuts to the arts and humanities in England’s universities are becoming “endemic”, according to the country’s main higher education union, as it ramped up opposition to plans to cut courses at two institutions.

The University and College Union said it had written to the vice-chancellor of the University of Wolverhampton after it emerged that it had suspended student recruitment to about 140 undergraduate and taught postgraduate courses. 

Meanwhile, the union’s general secretary accused the University of Roehampton of mounting an “assault on education” after more than 200 academics were told their jobs could be at risk due to a “strategic realignment” that will result in cuts to humanities programmes.

In the letter to Wolverhampton vice-chancellor Ian Campbell, UCU’s regional official for the West Midlands, Anne O’Sullivan, asked for more clarity over the decision and raised employment law concerns over consulting members whose jobs could be at risk.

In a separate press statement, she said that the union had “serious concerns” about the moves, “especially when there has been no consultation with staff or students and no information provided on the reasoning behind the decision”.

“The plans to hit mainly arts and social science subjects looks like a crude attack on the arts and humanities, which is becoming endemic across the sector,” she added.

Professor Campbell said that the decision was taken because “enrolments have been falling with associated loss of income” while costs have “significantly increased”.

The university says it is seeking to “consolidate” courses after a review that looked at application data, graduate employment results and student satisfaction.

In relation to Roehampton, UCU general secretary Jo Grady said that the plans – which involve cuts to philosophy, anthropology, Classics and creative writing programmes – were “nothing short of an assault on education and we will fight them”.

“Those students who have been recruited on to the programmes that management is now trying to axe have been sold a lie and if these plans go through their courses will be distorted beyond recognition,” Dr Grady said.

The university said that it would “anticipate a net reduction of around 64 full-time equivalent academic posts overall” as a result of the change to courses, which were needed because of “financial challenges”, including capped fees and rising costs.

The announcements at Roehampton and Wolverhampton came as De Montfort University said it was looking at a “net reduction of 58 roles across academic and professional services” as a result of reduced student numbers. 

Meanwhile submission data for the 2021 Research Excellence Framework, released earlier this month, showed a significant fall in the number of submissions to Main Panel D, which covers the arts and humanities, in a likely sign of departmental closures in this area over several years.



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