Lincoln faces strike threat after ‘putting 220 staff at risk’

Union fears scale of cost-cutting imperils local economy in region already facing economic challenges

April 18, 2024
Source: iStock/Peter Austin

Staff at the University of Lincoln are considering strike action over restructuring plans that they fear could lead to hundreds of job losses.

The University and College Union (UCU) said the “brutal cuts” threatened 220 staff members – including one in 10 academics – with Lincoln’s fashion degree and specialist support for widening participation students at risk.

Modern languages provision had already been shut down, the union said, leading to eight people losing their jobs.

The university said it was “not immune” to the financial pressures UK universities are facing and the bulk of the cost savings would be made through voluntary departures.

Union members at Lincoln were being consulted from 22 April on whether to strike and could join other branches including Goldsmiths, University of London and the University of Kent, which have recently backed industrial action in response to cost-cutting measures.

The union pointed out that Lincoln’s most recent accounts showed a £3 million operating surplus in 2022-23, with £46 million in cash reserves.

Despite this, the university has told staff it needs to save £30 million by the end of the 2025 financial year.

UCU Lincoln acting chair Rob Dean said it was “simply impossible to slash so many jobs without severely impacting current students, future students and diminishing the university's vital role as a cornerstone of regional education”.

“Furthermore, not only are many people in danger of losing their jobs, but we are also extremely concerned that those remaining will be left with unmanageable workloads,” Dr Dean, a lecturer in the College of Arts, added.

“Without a transparent assessment of past decisions and a commitment to accountability, there is a risk of perpetuating the same errors, endangering the institution’s future stability.

“However, the impact of this extends beyond the confines of academia. The local economy will also be affected. In a small city like Lincoln the number of proposed cuts threaten to undermine the socioeconomic fabric of the region, exacerbating existing challenges and inequalities.”

A Lincoln spokesperson said that the ongoing freeze in undergraduate tuition fees and recent immigration policy changes were placing universities under financial pressure.

“The University of Lincoln is not immune to these headwinds, and we are having to take steps to reduce our base budgets in 2024-25 in the face of rising costs and stalling real-terms income,” they said.

“As a key employer and driver of economic, cultural and societal improvement in the region, we know we need to be fit for the future. Ignoring the current headwinds would be to let down a large number of people. The university is too important to our students, staff, and local communities to risk doing otherwise and we will keep making the positive impact this region relies upon us to make.”

Minimising job losses, supporting staff, and protecting the student experience “will be absolute priorities as we seek to find the right size and shape for the university to continue to be successful in the future”, the spokesperson said, adding that the changes were designed to “ensure our university navigates this precarious period facing the sector and continues supporting the aspirations of people across our region”.

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