Aberystwyth biologists face cull after poor rating

May 9, 1997

Up to 18 jobs are under threat at the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, where a low score in the research assessment exercise has forced a shake-up in biological sciences, writes Julia Hinde.

The Institute of Biological Sciences, which has 42 staff members, scored a 2 in the latest RAE, having had a 3 in 1992, leading to a cut of around Pounds 600,000 in its annual income from the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales.

According to Chris Price, Aberystwyth's AUT president, the university has drawn up a plan to cover the reduced funding. This, he says, involves the loss of up to 18 lecturers.

"We believe they want 18 lecturers to go so they can bring in new young staff with promising records in research," he said, adding that three members of staff had already accepted early retirement.

"Biology is the largest student department," said Dr Price. "Staff were given a very heavy teaching load and were not able to give a great deal of time to research. Instead of appreciating this fact, the research work of all 42 academics was submitted for examination. The result was a low average rating that attracted no research funding at all."

He added: "Our main objection to the plan is that this is now happening without being openly discussed. The risks and benefits have not been assessed. We fear the plan is a danger to teaching."

Derec Llwyd Morgan, principal at Aberystwyth, said the university was being forced to take action following the RAE.

"Biological sciences is a very important department to us," he said. "We are traditionally very good at it. We had to find a balance between excellence in teaching and research. We are looking at how to regain that balance."

He refused to discuss details of the restructuring, but added that meetings were being held.

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