Herts is accused of 'sham' talks on cuts

August 11, 2000

Lecturers' union Natfhe has accused the University of Hertfordshire of "sacrificing its principles" as the furore over 55 academic redundancies gathers pace.

Ahead of a strike ballot next month, Natfhe claims the university's "dubious" criteria for departmental closure mean selectors would come under pressure to recruit top A-level students.

Jenny Golden, Natfhe regional official, said: "This strikes at the heart of government plans to widen access and open up higher education. It appears Hertfordshire is trying to emulate old elite universities, such as Oxbridge, and sacrificing its principles into the bargain."

The closure criteria include a department's ability to select students of "appropriate quality", its performance in Quality Assurance Agency assessments and contributions to the research assessment exercise.

Natfhe also claims that the university is "unlawfully" withholding crucial documents without which the redundancy consultations are a "sham" and it expects to complain to the Central Arbitration Committee.

The university said the cuts were a result of declining student demand, particularly in chemistry, civil engineering, social sciences and performing arts. A spokesman denied cuts criteria were a cause for concern and said all consultations were in accordance with agreed procedures.

"The cost of continuing investment in old areas prevents investment in new technology subjects, which are expanding and meet public demand," he said.

Meanwhile, lecturers at Teesside have clashed with management over the loss of up to 20 academic jobs. A vote of no confidence in vice-chancellor Derek Fraser was passed and staff agreed to ballot for industrial action as soon as any compulsory redundancies took place.

In Sunderland a second round of up to 20 job losses is to take place next month following 30 earlier. The university claims the cuts are because of changing student demand.

Amanda Hart, national universities official at Natfhe, said the recent flurry of redundancies among new institutions was disturbing, particularly since the comprehensive spending review had been quite positive.

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