Future of eight Liverpool departments in doubt

Disappointing RAE results could lead to cuts, leaked documents show. Melanie Newman reports

March 9, 2009

Up to eight departments are under threat at the University of Liverpool, according to internal documents seen by Times Higher Education.

Three departments – politics and communication studies, philosophy and statistics – were judged by the 2008 research assessment exercise to have no world-leading (4*) research activity. The university has questioned whether this is “acceptable” for a member of the Russell Group of 20 research-led institutions.

“It is the view of the senior management team and the deans that, given the need to invest in excellence, it is not feasible to continue to support these areas in future,” the document says.

The university is also considering closing the departments of civil engineering, cancer studies, dentistry, American studies and sociology due to their RAE results.

The plans will be discussed by Liverpool’s academic senate on 11 March and its governing council on 18 March, with final proposals going before the senate in June.

In light of the news, the University and College Union will debate a motion to ballot for local industrial action at an extraordinary general meeting on 10 March.

melanie.newman@tsleducation.com

Update

A spokeswoman for Liverpool stressed that a wider range of options were open for five of the eight areas - civil engineering, cancer studies, dentistry, American studies and sociology – where the RAE results were not as much of a concern as the results for politics and communication studies, philosophy and statistics.

Activity in the five areas is to be reviewed “as a matter of urgency”, the leaked document says. It suggests “realignment and repositioning”; “transfer of activity to another higher education institution” and closure as options for the five areas.

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