Academics fret as admin staff depart

November 16, 2007

Hundreds of voluntary redundancies set to hit Manchester University will mostly be among administrative staff, prompting fears from academics that the university will struggle to operate effectively.

Updated figures provided to The Times Higher by the university this week show that it has so far accepted 551 redundancy applications after a voluntary redundancy package worth 18 months' pay was offered to all its 11,800 staff in March.

But the local branch of the University and College Union has highlighted that the job losses will mostly be on the administrative side. "We are very concerned regarding the impact on the administrative function of the university and possible implications for staff and students," the branch's communication officer told The Times Higher , who added that academics had not found the scheme appealing and the branch still did not feel the financial case for the job cuts had been adequately made.

The university said that, of 551 voluntary redundancies accepted so far, 492 (89 per cent) were among administrative, clerical, library or manual staff with 59 (11 per cent) among academic and research staff.

The voluntary severance scheme is set to close at the end of the month. Plans to tackle the £30 million deficit following the merger of Manchester University and Umist will then shift to a restructuring phase.

"The major impact on administration inevitably creates a situation where the university will have to do some restructuring, and that is very worrying. The process is only just being rolled out at the moment and we are awaiting details," the UCU local officer added.

A university spokesman said: "We knew from the outset that the bulk of staff would be in administration and support roles. Following the merger it is where there is duplication and overlap.

"We are reorganising key business processes in certain areas to make them more efficient and effective. It has been ongoing for months, and the unions have been involved in those discussions."

The union official stressed the branch was not attacking the university. "Our problem is with the vice-chancellor and his job losses."

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