Lessons in irony

March 14, 2003

Lord McCarthy tells only part of Ruskin College's story of crisis ("Ruskin left in lurch", THES , March 7). The governing executive, dominated by external trade unionists, has voted for a business plan involving £300,000 staffing cuts by July in a college of fewer than 20 full-time lecturing staff. The proposals include a wage freeze - and thus withdrawal from national contracts, unrealistic target setting and scrapping of many hourly-paid jobs. This will have a devastating effect on the curriculum, in particular on our return-to-learn and short-residential courses, some undergraduate certificate courses and our two MA degrees in women's studies and public history. It will also radically alter the ethos of this so-called workers' university.

It is ironic that amid the government's widening participation rhetoric, a college that has done this successfully for more than a century is threatened with cuts. It is more ironic that the executive seems intent on blaming the staff for the crisis rather than assessing critically its failed adventure into real estate that has already cost the college tens of thousands of pounds.

Hilda Kean
Tutor in history
Ruskin College, Oxford

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