Cuts threaten access reputation, Ulster staff claim

Academics fear that 'provision of teaching will be seriously diminished'. Matthew Reisz writes

March 22, 2012



Credit: Alamy


Proposed jobs cuts at the University of Ulster amount to the institution "abdicating its responsibilities to the wider community that funds it" and may "leave a massive hole in the educational provision for the children of Northern Ireland".

Those are among the claims made in an open letter to Ulster's vice-chancellor, Richard Barnett, that has been signed by 50 members of staff, 130 current and former students, as well as "concerned individuals" from across the world.

The letter was sent out on 13 March by Neal Garnham, senior lecturer in history at Ulster, with the worldwide group headed by the renowned literary theorist Terry Eagleton, now distinguished visitor in the department of English at the University of Notre Dame in the US.

Acknowledging that reduced funding from the Northern Ireland government necessitated spending cuts, the letter argues that "we must all take our fair share of the burden". Yet large-scale redundancies, including claims that a quarter of those teaching history, English and modern languages will lose their posts, mean that "provision of teaching and student care in some areas will become seriously diminished, if not inadequate".

All this was particularly serious, the letter goes on, in an institution that "prides itself on its ability to widen access to higher education for groups who have traditionally been excluded". It says that 1,500 Ulster students have some form of disability or suffer from long-term ill health, while almost 40 per cent hail from lower-income homes.

"Many more than the national average have caring responsibilities, looking after children, parents or other family members. We help these people...to achieve better things for themselves and their families in later life," the letter says.

"The university is trying to push through piecemeal changes fairly rapidly so that particular areas get eroded without anyone noticing," Dr Garnham said.

A spokesman for Ulster said that its decisions had taken account of "existing workloads across the disciplines". Although eight posts would be lost in English and history, "in the Ulster Business School, an additional 10 posts are being filled. The overall aim is to bring performance across the disciplines more into line," the spokesman added.

He said the institution was "confident these changes will not impact at all on our excellent record...for widening access ".

Asked for an alternative to the cuts, Dr Garnham said: "If the vice-chancellor gave me three weeks and a look at the books, I could save him £1 million - there's a lot of fat to be trimmed."

matthew.reisz@tsleducation.com.

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 10 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

Elly Walton illustration (7 July 2016)

Researchers in the liberal arts seem to have made it their mission to communicate in the most obscure fashion, says Zachary Foster

Daniel Mitchell illustration (14 July 2016)

Frank Furedi says the mournful mood on campus and the disparagement and silencing of Leave supporters betray an isolated scholarly class

Michael Parkin illustration (7 July 2016)

Rising immigration-related costs and lack of employer support send an unwelcoming message to international staff, says Jason Danely

Female Brazilian football/soccer fan celebrating with flag of Brazil, Best universities in Latin America

Brazil leads Times Higher Education’s debut ranking of the top universities in Latin America

People walk past second hand books for sale

Shift may be evidence that researchers feel they are increasingly judged on citations and journal impact factors