Job cuts may hit black studies

December 23, 2005

Middlesex University may be forced to cut its history degree programme, including its prestigious black history courses, as part of a bid to cut spending by £10 million a year.

The university set up a voluntary redundancy scheme, which was quickly oversubscribed. It announced that 175 staff, including 33 academics, were to take voluntary redundancy.

The voluntary job losses will save £5 million, leaving the university to find savings of another £5 million. The total annual operating expenditure of Middlesex is £130 million.

The university, which has the highest percentage of black and ethnic-minority principal lecturers of any new university, is carrying out a sustainability review of all its courses. Submissions from the university's constituent schools are due in this week.

A spokesman said that history courses at the university were not well subscribed. There were about 100 students studying different history modules - amounting to about 60 full-time equivalent students, the spokesman said.

In recent years a number of new universities, including Luton, have had to cut history because courses have struggled to attract students.

A statement from Middlesex says: "If any programmes are phased out in the future, decisions would be made with the education and welfare of our students as our top priority."

A Middlesex spokesman said that the university had been running at a loss for several years.

"Like many universities, it has been hard for us to balance the books," the spokesman said. "There is not one big thing that has pushed us into making these cuts."

Students at the university are concerned that history may disappear. Keith Shilsoe, president of Middlesex's student union, said: "Despite the huge financial pressures the university is facing, closing the history course is neither an obvious nor desirable way to reduce costs.

"This is particularly true given that the course is unique in terms of the range of black history components it contains," Mr Shilsoe said.

The university's website boasts modules on black London and slavery and resistance in the Caribbean.

Middlesex is also home to the Runnymede collection - an archive of historically significant papers from the Runnymede Trust, which was set up to fight for racial equality in the UK in the 1960s.

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