Brum v-c defends plan to cut up to 200 jobs

October 11, 2002

Birmingham University vice-chancellor Michael Sterling has defended restructuring plans that could mean up to 200 redundancies, in the face of mounting anger from lecturers' union leaders.

Professor Sterling said most of the university was behind the five-year plan, despite threats of industrial action from the Association of University Teachers.

Birmingham's council and senate had approved proposals to reorganise departments, schools, staffing and funding to allow about 8 per cent growth in student numbers over the next five years and secure the university's position as a top-rated research-led institution, he said.

But AUT leaders warned this week that unless the university adopted a more consultative approach to bringing about change, it would suffer a mass exodus of senior academics.

William Edmondson, Birmingham AUT president, said: "There is a tremendous amount of disquiet among senior and junior staff. For him (Professor Sterling) to say it is not representative is precisely our point: he does not know how much anger there is."

Professor Sterling said the university might be seeking up to 200 voluntary redundancies, half of which would comprise academics.

In the long term, however, the university could end up with more staff, he added. While weak or over-resourced areas could lose staff, areas of planned growth - such as the continuing professional-development and widening-participation programmes - would require more.

Staff reorganisation that had already taken place and cuts in "unnecessary expenditure" had resulted in boosting the university's surplus from £500,000 last year to £8 million, he said.

Professor Sterling said restructuring was needed to help boost the university's research performance and increase the proportion of research-active staff from 73 per cent up to about 90 per cent. "Any institution has to focus on its strengths. We are a research-led institution and we cannot afford to carry passengers," he said.

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