Cuts fuel campus disputes

June 5, 1998

Cuts and restructuring are causing upheaval in universities countrywide. Thes reporters look at four hotspots.

University of East London

BAILIFFS evicted 35 students on Tuesday from buildings at the University of East London, where they had been in occupation for more than two weeks protesting at Pounds 2.4 million worth of cuts and 80 staff redundancies, five of them compulsory, writes Harriet Swain.

Students, supported by lecturers' union Natfhe, blame poor management planning for the cuts, which will close the maths department once current students finish their courses and affect some nursing and language courses.

Natfhe has written an open letter to governors of the university, criticising management strategy on admissions, staff recruitment, quality assurance and the university's regional role. It states: "The staff of the university no longer have faith in the vice-chancellor . . . there is every indication that the university is in grave danger of entering into a spiral of academic decline which will leave us languishing at the bottom of every indicator of quality and excellence and will, inevitably, leave us open to merger with a more dynamically-run London university."

A university spokeswoman blamed the university's financial problems on falls in government funding and difficulty attracting and retaining students, who tend to come from poorer backgrounds and often cannot afford to stay.

Rose Bruford College

More than 20 visiting academics have refused to work at Rose Bruford College of Speech and Drama, claiming managers are threatening the future of acting training at the college.

Staff called the teaching boycott after two lecturers were sacked and a third resigned, claiming constructive dismissal. All three are taking the college to industrial tribunal. Students backed a staff vote for the principal's resignation. Behind the dispute are differences over management style, which have emerged since the arrival of principal Robert Ely. Professor Ely turned around a difficult financial situation, but visiting lecturer Tony Coult said: "These are excellent, high-grade teachers and the students are very anxious about their courses' future."

Jenny Golden, Natfhe regional official, has now written to HEFCE warning that the college may not be able to run part of its academic programme next year unless the dispute is resolved.

QUEEN'S UNIVERSITY

Union representatives at Queen's University, Belfast say they want to save as many jobs as possible after senate overwhelmingly approved a Pounds 25 million investment programme.

There were only three votes against the plan, which involves the axing of four departments - geology, Italian, Semitic studies, and statistics and operational research - and the potential loss of more than 100 jobs.

The plans include new investment in key areas of existing and potential excellence and the recruitment of 100 new "high calibre" academic staff.

QUB insists the changes will affect fewer than 20 teaching staff who will be offered generous early retirement and severance packages, and similar packages will be offered to about 90 other staff.

Richard Jay, QUB spokesman for the Association of University Teachers, said: "Our main priority now is to try to save as many jobs as possible."

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