Birkbeck ‘threatens to cut 140 jobs over falling student numbers’

Specialist provider of evening higher education classes planning sweeping cuts to departments, union claims

十月 31, 2022
Birkbeck, University of London
Source: Tubslubeamorepersempre / Creative Commons

Up to 140 jobs are feared to be at risk at Birkbeck, University of London after the institution announced plans to make staff redundant due to a fall in student numbers. 

The University and College Union said the specialist provider of evening higher education courses had emailed all staff outlining how it intended to fill a “multimillion-pound deficit”.

Cuts on the table included 84 academic and 56 administrative staff positions, who would all be made redundant by July 2023, UCU said. This would include up to 11 staff members in the department of English, theatre and creative writing, 10 in geography; seven in politics; seven in film, media and cultural studies; six in philosophy; and six in language, cultures and applied linguistics. 

The union said such cuts would be a “disaster for students and the university” and it was exploring options for taking industrial action.  

On 28 October, Birkbeck’s local UCU branch backed a motion of no confidence in the institution’s senior leadership team. Birkbeck's Unison branch – largely made up of administrative staff – will consider a similar motion this week. 

UCU Birkbeck’s branch president Mike Berlin blamed the financial difficulties on “mistakes by senior management” and said “hardworking staff” should not have to lose their jobs because of it. 

“Birkbeck’s cuts, which do not include any plans for recovery and growth, are a recipe for managed decline,” he added. “Birkbeck has a proud history of reaching students who otherwise would not enter higher education. Sacking 140 staff, including up to one in four teaching staff, threatens to trash that history.

“The cuts would severely harm student learning and jeopardise the university’s commitment to social mobility and lifelong learning. We urge management to rethink its kneejerk job cuts and instead work with us to look at how we can attract more students. If the university refuses to do so we will have no option other than to begin taking steps for an industrial ballot.”

The institution is the latest to announce plans to cut staff in light of financial difficulties. Humanities departments have been particularly badly hit as part of a wave of redundancies over the summer. UCU members at 150 institutions – including Birkbeck – have voted to stage further industrial action as part of long-running disputes over pay, pensions and working conditions.

A Birkbeck spokesman said that the union’s claims that potential job losses amounted to up to a quarter of the institution’s teaching staff and half its administrative workforce were “simply untrue”.

“We are consulting on organisational change as part of the implementation of our strategy. This includes a reduction in the overall number of posts. However, these are not at the scale claimed by UCU and no decisions have been taken as to how this would be achieved,” the spokesman said. “The college has stated a number of times that it is committed to avoiding compulsory redundancies wherever possible.”



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