Huddersfield job cuts add to fears for arts provision in post-92s

Five departments set to be merged into three, says local union branch

June 14, 2022
University of Huddersfield
Source: iStock
University of Huddersfield

Another post-92 UK university has announced job cuts, increasing fears that the sector is shrinking due to financial pressures.

The University of Huddersfield has told staff in its School of Arts and Humanities that 37 roles are at risk of redundancy – seven technical staff and 30 academics including professors and lecturers – according to the local University and College Union branch.

Five departments – linguistics, English, drama, fashion and textiles – are being merged into three, with the university blaming a deficit in the school’s budget.

It follows sweeping cuts across modern universities in England, which critics say are damaging plans to “level up” disadvantaged parts of the country. About 20 jobs are set to go at the University of Wolverhampton, De Montfort University in Leicester has announced plans to cut up to 58 jobs and the University of Roehampton is looking to cut 64 posts.

Gary Allen, the UCU branch chair at Huddersfield, said that the move there was “premature” because the school was only formed as part of a merger two years ago and, because of the pandemic, had not yet been given a chance to prove itself.

“Due to a number of unique circumstances the school simply hasn’t been given an opportunity to run with its new courses and to see whether those courses are going to become popular and that they can work,” he said.

Dr Allen added that the branch had not been told whether courses would be closed or not but said that the scale of the redundancies proposed would mean that the school would struggle to continue to offer its full portfolio.

Anna Zueva, the UCU branch secretary, said that the plan appeared to have been announced “without any vision for the future” and the union was seeking more information from the university about how the remaining staff will be able to maintain high levels of student satisfaction.

“It is going to be extremely demoralising because this is the third round of redundancies in as many years so the message from the university to staff is loud and clear: there is no job security in this institution,” she said.

“If we want to provide a good quality education to the students, we need to feel secure, we need staff who are not stressed or overworked or spending their free time looking for other jobs.”

Dr Zueva said, along with other branches, that the local UCU was “extremely concerned” about arts and humanities provision and there were fears they were in the “middle of a slippery slope” that could see these subjects eventually disappear from Huddersfield and other universities.

The university draws its student intake heavily from the local population, Dr Allen said, adding that there are few other options for these students because they increasingly cannot afford to move away from home due to the cost-of-living crisis. Therefore, he fears, taking away arts provision would “remove opportunities from an entire generation”.

"The School of Arts and Humanities is reshaping to align itself to meet current and future areas of student demand.  The University continues to invest in areas of growth and manage its resources effectively," a University of Huddersfield spokeswoman said.

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