Leicester cuts 135 jobs

January 28, 2005

Leicester University will lose 135 jobs as part of a restructuring exercise designed to improve its performance in the next research assessment exercise.

Forty-five of the jobs will be lost in chemistry, geology and sociology.

The remaining 90 will be spread across the university.

In the long term, the university plans to create 80 jobs, 45 of which will support the expansion of postgraduate and distance-learning programmes.

A financial paper presented last summer to the university senate revealed the extent of concern about the university's poor performance in the RAE, describing it as "disappointing".

Only 40 per cent of the university's staff were in departments rated 5 and 5*, compared with an average in England of 57 per cent.

The paper also revealed serious concerns about the future of chemistry. It said that Leicester was in talks with Loughborough University about creating a single joint department. It added that continuing with a smaller department would "result in a weakened unit with no greater prospect of long-term viability".

The university moved quickly this week to dispel concerns about the department's future.

William Brammar, pro vice-chancellor, said: "In the short term we are pruning the department, but we plan to focus on postgraduate numbers and new research areas to grow chemistry in the future."

He said that serious discussions had taken place with Loughborough over the summer, but neither university had wanted to proceed with a joint department.

Chemistry received a grade 4 in the 2001 RAE, leaving the university with what Professor Brammar described as a "big hole" in its research portfolio.

"We got grade 5s and 5*s in physics, maths, applied maths, engineering, biochemistry, biology and genetics," he said.

"The shortfall of funding in grade 4s left us with a problem. We have decided that chemistry is too important a department for us to lose.

Instead, we are putting a concerted effort into bringing it up to a grade 5."

The university recently spent £2.5 million refurbishing the department.

Leicester has also received a grant from the Higher Education Funding Council for England to use chemistry as a vehicle for widening participation in universities.

Paul Cullis, head of organic and biological chemistry at Leicester, is leading the project. He said: "Chemistry at Leicester has seen a significant increase in applications to undergraduate courses both this year andlast."

claire.sanders@thes.co.uk

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