London Met plans to cut 400 jobs in ‘rebuild’ vision

Move to axe 14 per cent of workforce branded ‘devastating’, but v-c insists change needed

May 31, 2016
A man flying kites
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Cost cutting: Professor Raftery said he had ‘a lot of sympathy’ with staff, who have just seen the end of a redundancy round in which 93 full-time equivalent posts were cut

London Metropolitan University is set to shed 14 per cent of its staff under plans to move all its teaching to a single campus.

In an update to its “One Campus, One Community” project sent to staff on 31 May, London Met said that it intends to reduce staff headcount by about 395 posts over the next two years.

That is 14 per cent of the 2,920 staff now working at London Met, the university confirmed.

The news has been described as “another devastating blow to the already ravaged London Met” by the University and College Union, which says that it will suggest an alternative approach in an upcoming consultation on the proposed strategy.

However, John Raftery, the university’s vice-chancellor, said that the proposals – which are part of London Met’s plans to locate all university operations at its Islington campus by 2019 – are vital if the institution is to succeed in the long run.

In an interview with Times Higher Education, Professor Raftery, who took over at London Met almost two years ago, said that the restructure was needed to address the “core problem” of the university’s unwieldy multi-campus estate – a legacy of its foundation in the 2002 merger of London Guildhall University and the University of North London.

“If you were to invent London Met tomorrow, it would not look like this,” Professor Raftery said.

“The institution was founded in 2002 when it had 28,000 students on three different campuses and 12 different buildings spread across London – today it has about 12,000 students.”

The campus redesign, which will include a £125 million upgrade of its main Islington base and the relocation of its Cass creative arts school in Moorgate, will be accompanied by the introduction of a new school system, replacing the university’s existing faculty structure, Professor Raftery said.

No courses will be closed as part of the plans, with savings due to be found under the move to the single campus in Islington, he added.

“For too long, staff have been faced with cost-saving exercises that have not dealt with the core problem, which goes back to the merger in 2002,” he said.

“We are rebuilding the university,” Professor Raftery continued, saying that a new and smaller senior management structure would be “more targeted” on issues faced by students, such as academic and employment outcomes.

That need for a sharper focus on student outcomes was underlined by the publication of the higher education White Paper last month, with such metrics set to inform the teaching excellence framework, Professor Raftery added.

“We need to build a university that is fit for the needs of its time, rather than just have endless cost-cutting exercises,” he said, adding that he had “a lot of sympathy” with staff, who have just seen the end of a redundancy round in which 93 full-time equivalent posts were cut.

Falling student numbers had also underlined the need for change, despite graduate employment and student satisfaction hitting record levels last year, Professor Raftery said.

Student numbers – “in common with other post-92 institutions in London – are definitely falling, and we have to respond to the signals by reorganising ourselves, living within our means and working very hard to make the university a destination of choice,” he added.

jack.grove@tesglobal.com

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