Gillies defends London Met course cuts

The vice-chancellor of London Metropolitan University has defended his decision to cut the number of courses at his institution by two-thirds, and set out lessons for other universities that embark on similar overhauls.

April 4, 2012

Speaking at the annual conference of the Association of University Administrators in Manchester, Malcolm Gillies said that as society was unwilling to increase its funding of higher education, the challenge was to provide “a decent education for a decent price”.

In April last year it was announced that the number of undergraduate courses at London Met would shrink from 557 to 160. Degree courses cut included those in history, philosophy and the performing arts.

The University and College Union claimed the decision would deprive students from poor backgrounds of the chance to study the humanities.

But Professor Gillies told the AUA conference on 3 April that having 400 to 500 courses “led to administrative breakdown” and he stressed the need for a “defensible portfolio perimeter” that minimised administration costs.

He said universities needed to ask of their portfolios: “How many pence in the pound goes to the front-line activities?”

Professor Gillies advised that when universities create a new course, they should “establish tight time-lines” for assessing success or failure.

Academics’ creativity in designing new courses was second only to hedge-fund managers’ ability to design new financial products, said Professor Gillies.

Before embarking on major course rationalisation programmes, universities should work out their communications strategy, he said, although vice-chancellors should prepare to be “toasted and roasted” in hostile news stories.

61 per cent of the media coverage that London Met received over its course closures and relatively low average tuition fee of £6,850 was neutral, with the rest split between negative and positive, he said.

However, the most commonly occurring words in the press coverage had been “cuts”, “axe”, and “slashed”, he added.

London Met has embarked on a marketing campaign featuring a student holding aloft a banner that reads “affordable quality education”.

Professor Gillies said the image had a “socialist realist tinge”, although earlier designs had been rejected because of a resemblance to Mao Zedong, the leader of the Chinese revolution.

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 3 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

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Most Commented

Monster behind man at desk

Despite all that’s been done to improve doctoral study, horror stories keep coming. Here three students relate PhD nightmares while two academics advise on how to ensure a successful supervision

Sir Christopher Snowden, former Universities UK president, attacks ratings in wake of Southampton’s bronze award

opinion illustration

Eliminating cheating services, even if it were possible, would do nothing to address students’ and universities’ lack of interest in learning, says Stuart Macdonald

Female professor

New data show proportion of professors who are women has declined at some institutions

celebrate, cheer, tef results

Emilie Murphy calls on those who challenged the teaching excellence framework methodology in the past to stop sharing their university ratings with pride