Huddersfield’s ‘repositioning’ sees 138 jobs go

Garlanded Yorkshire institution denies claims that cuts are related to financial pressures or research ambitions

December 6, 2017
Railway tracks

One of the UK’s most financially robust universities is cutting nearly 140 jobs under what it describes as plans to “position its workforce for the future”.

The University of Huddersfield, which posted a £23.7 million surplus in 2015-16, has confirmed that 74 academic staff and 64 professional services staff will leave the institution at the end of January under a voluntary severance scheme.

One staff member told Times Higher Education that he believed the cuts were part of a drive to make Huddersfield more research-intensive ahead of the census date for the next research excellence framework in July 2020.

“There is a clear push towards research, but many of our areas of strength – business, journalism, education – are very practical so it will be difficult for us to become a redbrick-style university,” he said.

“There is already the demand that everyone should have a PhD, which is very difficult when you have a lot of practical courses where instructors don’t normally have this qualification,” he added, stating that several staff had gone elsewhere as they were unlikely to get a doctorate by 2018.

Huddersfield’s move comes after the University of Southampton announced plans to axe 75 jobs, and the University of Manchester said it would cut 171 posts.

But Huddersfield denied that either financial uncertainty or REF preparations had influenced its decision.

“The purpose of this was to help the university position its workforce for the future – it is not being driven by preparations for the next REF, nor is it financially driven,” a university spokesman told Times Higher Education, adding that the university “is not making staff redundant”.

Huddersfield is now “actively recruiting new staff and we currently have over 25 vacancies advertised with a closing date within the next four weeks and have plans to advertise more positions after Christmas”, the spokesman added.

The Huddersfield staff member, who asked to remain anonymous, said the departure of 138 employees during the academic year had created problems, and that departing lecturers were returning on fixed-term contracts to fulfil teaching duties.

However, the university spokesman said that the process has been “carefully planned [and that] all our schools have already made plans to cover the work of the 74 academics who will leave at the end of December”.

“Obviously, these will vary according to the particular situation within the respective school, but will include contributions from newly appointed and existing colleagues, and those involved in the severance [programme] returning part-time for fixed periods to cover specific work while new appointments are made,” he added.

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Reader's comments (1)

The obvious question is if it isn't about financial pressures or a research agenda what is the volunatry severance scheme about? What does 'help the university position its workforce for the future' mean? All universities are facing great uncertainty especially re income and general financial stability and at least this scheme is voluntary but to say it isn't about money or wanting to recruit high-level research-active staff makes little sense to me. A little bit of honesty would be helpful rather than managemement-speak.