Four departments at Leeds face cuts

Posts likely to go as university aims to slash costs in light of grant allocations. Melanie Newman reports

March 19, 2009

The University of Leeds has joined a growing list of elite research universities preparing to cut posts and restructure departments.

Leeds' School of Education and its faculty of biological sciences are among four departments that are likely to see posts cut in response to the 2009-10 grant allocations, based on the 2008 research assessment exercise.

A memo to staff from Steve Homans, professor of structural biology and dean of Leeds' faculty of biological sciences, points out that despite coming 11th out of 52 departments in terms of research quality in the RAE, it is still facing a 20 per cent cut in core research income.

"Many will doubtless be wondering how improved performance equates with a reduction in income," Professor Homans writes.

The faculty's "Achilles heel" is that it had not grown in volume and had returned a lower percentage of staff than most of its peers, he says.

"The loss of QR (quality-related research) income comes on the back of a significant deficit as a result of the pay award last year," Professor Homans adds. "We are presented with a significant challenge."

Another two departments are understood to be facing restructuring, with final decisions on how savings will be made to be taken in June.

Leeds' School of Healthcare will lose up to 33 posts, but these are unrelated to the RAE.

The school doubled its QR income following the exercise, but the university said a change to the National Health Service's contract- funding methodology had forced it to cut jobs.

"We're confident that (the) required reductions in staffing will be achieved by a combination of natural wastage, early retirement, voluntary severance and redeployment," a spokeswoman for Leeds said.

The Leeds branch of the University and College Union said that the healthcare cuts were an "extreme concern".

"Other cuts around the university illustrate one of our major objections to the RAE: changes in funding formulae result in unpredictable fluctuations in income that threaten stability," it said.

"The university has said (it) will consult with us over these issues, and our priority will be to defend jobs."

The news from Leeds follows confirmation by the University of Liverpool last week that it is likely to close three departments - statistics, philosophy and politics and communications studies - after they underperformed in the RAE.

The University of Bristol also warned that it would have to make redundancies amid fears that its current financial surplus "could easily be eroded".

• Meanwhile, Liverpool John Moores University is closing 37 courses as a result of over-recruitment last year.

The university exceeded its admission limit by 17 per cent and the Higher Education Funding Council for England warned that it could incur "significant penalties" if it did so again in 2009-10.

A spokeswoman for Liverpool John Moores said the courses would be withdrawn from September this year in a bid to reduce the university's undergraduate intake by 1,000.

"In effect, the university is 'full' and is now in danger of incurring penalty costs should we continue to offer the same broad portfolio," she said.

"A number of programmes have been withdrawn across the university that (have seen) diminishing interest, low retention and poor completion rates over the past three years."

melanie.newman@tsleducation.com.

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