Alarm grows as jobs to go at four more institutions

Voluntary redundancies and recruitment freezes are the order of the day. Melanie Newman reports

March 26, 2009

The wave of course closures and job cuts that has rocked the sector recently swept through more institutions this week.

Cuts have been announced at the University of Warwick, the University of Strathclyde and the University of Sussex, and the University of Reading has confirmed that one of its schools will shut.

At Warwick, the Centre for Translational and Comparative Studies looks set to close after an internal review, although a final decision will not be made until July.

Ken Flint, president of the Warwick branch of the University and College Union, said: "The centre has had high praise from external reviewers for the quality of its teaching, but this does not seem to have swayed the authors of the review.

"The university seems much more concerned about the amount of research funding the centre has in the short term."

Susan Bassnett, who runs the centre, is approaching retirement, and a recent hunt for a replacement was unsuccessful.

A disgruntled academic who asked not be named said: "The writing is on the wall because the centre has been stopped from recruiting for masters programmes that should run from September."

Jobs are also at risk at Strathclyde, which is cutting 140 posts as part of a push to slash staffing costs by £7.5 million a year by 2010-11.

Managers hope to save £6 million through voluntary redundancy and early retirement, with the rest to be saved via a recruitment freeze. The university estimates that the scheme will cost £10 million to implement.

Gordon Watson, president of Strathclyde UCU, said the union was working to prevent any compulsory redundancies, including for fixed-term contract staff.

A spokesman for Strathclyde insisted that the university was in a strong position but said that it, "in common with the higher education sector as a whole, faces financial challenges that must be met".

Meanwhile, Sussex is planning to close its highly rated undergraduate linguistics courses from this October.

This is despite a merger between the department of English language and linguistics and the department of English two years ago to "ensure the sustainability of the delivery of the subject area".

Sussex has four members of teaching faculty and three tutorial fellows focusing on linguistics. One post will not be renewed for the next academic year, and the remaining teaching staff will continue in post until current students have graduated.

The department is retaining its postgraduate MA provision in English language and applied linguistics.

Paul Cecil, the UCU branch president, said: "The proposals have not been considered by any of the required university committees. They have been imposed from above without consultation."

Finally, the University of Reading's council has confirmed plans to close the School of Health and Social Care from this September.

In a vote, 23 council members backed the plans to shut the school while four opposed them.

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