Keele staff face further cuts

July 18, 2003

Keele University shocked staff last week by announcing a new wave of job losses before its present round of cutbacks has been completed.

About 24 academic posts are expected to go in the latest voluntary severance programme in subjects such as the natural sciences, humanities and social sciences.

The university is still seeking voluntary redundancies in American studies, physics and chemistry in a "managed rebalancing" project, launched last February with the aim of saving £1.5 million by the end of the academic year.

Fifteen academics have taken a severance package and another 21 have resigned. The university still needs to save £400,000 under this scheme to hit its target.

A memo to all staff from the vice-chancellor's management committee says the university needs to save a further £800,000 in staff costs this year to avoid having to dig into its cash reserves.

The latest voluntary severance package offers worse conditions than the one operating at present "because of the limited cash available to fund it".

The memo blames the need for the latest cuts on the fact that core funding has failed to keep pace with pay costs and on a drop in recruitment of home postgraduate students last year.

But union leaders fear the problems are the result of a deeper crisis that, they say, has partly been brought about by a finance restructuring deal that they predict could lose the university £45 million.

Peter Fletcher, president of Keele Association of University Teachers, said: "We are shocked that management has announced further job losses without even waiting for the present round of voluntary severances to run its course.

"Management has yet to provide us with any explanation of the cash shortfall that has suddenly opened up in the 2003-04 budget. There was no sign of this in last year's projections. The worst aspect of this is that there is no end in sight.

Mr Fletcher added: "Management has refused to hold out any hope that the succession of job cuts will ever cease."

The AUT has asked Keele to save academic jobs by using money from the "substantial damages" awarded to the university in a recent court case against PriceWaterhouseCoopers over advice on a profit-related pay scheme.

But the university said that the damages might not be paid for some time and "would not provide a long-term gain".

A university spokesman said: "The reductions are entirely in line with the strategic policy of twin streams of contraction and growth. Thus, just as reductions are sought in areas where income does not meet expenditure, so new posts are being established in response to new funding streams or to generate new income.

"Such contraction and growth is likely to be a regular annual process unless there is a significant increase in core funding from the Higher Education Funding Council for England to boost income associated with other areas."

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