Anger at a university that's doubled the pain

June 21, 1996

Your front-page article on redundancies (THES, June 14), correctly reports the anger felt by academic staff at South Bank University at the proposal to axe at least 84 lecturing posts. This represents a loss of 15 per cent of our Higher Education Funding Council for England-funded academics, almost twice as much as the 7.8 per cent cut imposed by the Government.

Hence our fury is not solely directed against the stupidity of Government policy, but is focused in equal measure against the management of South Bank University, who have in a crass and insensitive way doubled the misery here. It is for this reason that lecturers' union Natfhe members at South Bank have voted overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action in a recent ballot. This is unprecedented. It is the first dispute in our history and among the very few official disputes organised by a lecturers' union against their own local management.

Our action is intended to highlight not only the human cost of such a massive one-off job loss, but also to indicate our concern at its effect on educational quality. The student experience here will undoubtedly be the poorer as staff-student ratios will soar (possibly to 1:33 in some departments) and staff workloads will increase, permitting even less time to engage with anything other than the most minimal academic contact.

Our action will occur on June 25 (not June 28 as reported) to coincide with the national conference and lobby of Parliament on that day organised by all the campus unions and supported by our own vice chancellor, who has encouraged staff to attend. We shall follow his advice in this instance, but will also hold our own rally later in the day to draw attention to the crisis at South Bank, a crisis which is only partly of the Government's making.

Our aim has always been to work to build the broadest possible alliance of all those interested in working for a properly funded system of higher education in this country. It is a matter of regret to us that our vice chancellor does not appear to share this agenda. His nominal support for the Council of Vice Chancellors and Principals position is a fig leaf behind which he is attempting to hide one of the most savage assaults on academic staff ever launched by any university in the country.

Mary Davies

Natfhe secretary

South Bank University

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