Whither London Met? (2 of 2)

May 12, 2011

I wish to alert readers to how cuts are being imposed on London Metropolitan University's Faculty of Humanities, Arts, Languages and Education (Hale). Of 14 subject areas, only six will remain, in spite of the popularity of courses such as history and performing arts, the high standing of subjects in academic league tables and commendations of excellence in the recent Quality Assurance Agency audit.

The staff Faculty Forum recently passed a unanimous vote of no confidence in the dean and his senior management, followed by a unanimous vote condemning the illegitimate process that has precipitated this situation. However, the vice-chancellor seems determined to force through plans to restructure the university in one "big bang" for 2012-13, against evidence of failings both in the consultative process and in the figures used to validate the cuts.

In Hale, the recent review of the undergraduate curriculum was confused and lacking in transparency. The dean never indicated to staff that huge reductions were necessary. News leaked out days before proposals were due to be presented to the academic board, which passed them regardless of the staff vote of no confidence. The following day, a small subcommittee of three governors sanctioned the entire 70 per cent reduction package slashing the university's course offering.

Staff have some big questions. Did the full governing body realise that such radical restructuring would be left to a subcommittee? When, less than two weeks later, the dean took early retirement, should his departure not have merited a review of matters in dispute? Or did the governors anticipate the demise of humanities and arts last year when they switched internal funding to a resource allocation model that required each faculty to be self-sustaining and also ended the cross-subsidy that supports a full complement of diverse subjects? If so, are they willing to ignore evidence that Hale stands to lose rather than gain from cutting popular subjects, and that the faculty has been unfairly burdened by central costings?

Sir David Melville's 2009 report into mismanagement at London Met criticised the previous executive for not listening to criticism and held governors responsible for presiding over a crisis that cost the university £35 million. Today's new governors should respond reasonably to informed staff and student protest, review the evidence and be prepared to reverse decisions accordingly. The university's excellence in delivering arts and humanities to some of the country's most disadvantaged students is at stake.

Cliff Snaith, University and College Union branch secretary, on behalf of union members in the Faculty of Humanities, Arts, Languages and Education, London Metropolitan University

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