Exeter to unveil big jobs push

April 8, 2005

Exeter University is poised to begin a major recruitment drive to help reposition itself in the higher education market. It is creating 52 posts, 44 of which are academic, after restructuring.

Exeter is to advertise six chairs and 38 academic positions, largely lectureships and some research fellowships, as well as administrative posts, in next week's Times Higher .

The university made the headlines late last year when it closed its chemistry and music departments. In part, this led to a Commons inquiry on strategic science provision. The university is to lose 145 jobs through voluntary redundancy.

Steve Smith, Exeter's vice-chancellor, said the university had been through a lot during the past six months, but the reasons behind the moves were clear and strategic.

"It was always about focusing our investment in particular areas rather than spreading it across the whole university," he said. "We had financial reasons for doing it, with large losses in science, but the idea was always to clear the decks and quickly start reinvesting in areas of the university where we can compete internationally," he said.

Professor Smith said that Exeter was too small to be internationally competitive in all academic activities.

The university is investing £1.8 million in the 52 new posts. A further £1.5 million investment in recruitment is due to be announced later this year.

"The shedding of staff costs a large amount of money, but once the budgets are balanced we can release more funding to areas that we think have very competitive research and teaching profiles," he said.

All Exeter's academic schools would benefit, Professor Smith said. Three of the chairs are in biosciences, two in education and one in engineering.

Exeter is recruiting across 20 disciplines, from Arabic to radiography.

"Clearly, what we have done is taken out two large groups in chemistry and music. In all other areas we have identified groups that in their current configuration would not be sustainable."

The university management looked predominantly at areas that were rated 4 in the last research assessment exercise. "What was 4 in the last RAE will not be funded in the next," Professor Smith said.

"It's comfortable not to do anything, but in three years' time where would we be?" he said.

"It's been horrible and I've hated it, but the alternative would be to sit here after the RAE and say we've got too many small departments. We are aligning ourselves ahead of time. That's what we think is the logic of fees, and we are getting the university in shape for that environment."

anthea.lipsett@thes.co.uk

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