The threat of compulsory redundancies at the University of Derby has resulted in a warning from lecturers' union Natfhe that it will take legal action to protect its members there.
The union claims that Derby has failed to undertake proper consultation and issued a press statement which says: "Within days of a lavish opening of the new atrium, the University of Derby announced a number of compulsory redundancies on the grounds of financial constraint with the likelihood of more to follow."
But university authorities say the statement is misleading. Roger Waterhouse, vice chancellor, confirmed that a staffing review had been carried out because funding council support was insufficient to meet student expansion. Redundancies were being contemplated he said, but no formal notices had been issued. "Some posts will not continue and we are currently consulting on that," Professor Waterhouse said. He added that the "lavish" opening of the atrium had been paid for by the contractors.
Two academics have been informed that they face redundancy. Geraldine Egan, Natfhe regional official, said consultation procedures had been breached because on the same day as the union was being "consulted" the decision was being made public to members of staff.
One is John X. Berger, reader in photographic studies, who described his treatment by the university as "shabby" and wondered whether this was the first step towards the closure of photographic studies in Derby.
"I am not convinced by the spirit of consultation, which seems inconsistent with the university's mission statement," he said. "I stand for quality and excellence and am very committed to the development of the university and the city as a centre of excellence in photographic education and culture."
Mr Berger said he would fight his redundancy with the help of supporters such as Pavel Buchler, head of fine art at Glasgow School of Art. Mr Buchler said: "John's efforts have contributed substantially to the standing of the university in the photographic community - this goes way beyond the loss of one scholar." The university said, however, that such a small department could not sustain three readers.
In addition three student counsellors are to go plus an occupational health nurse and the university will in future "buy in" counselling services. This was not a cost-cutting measure, according to Professor Waterhouse, but a means of improving the counselling service.
In art and design 35 technician posts will be displaced and staff have been asked to apply for 29 positions. Two of the posts are currently vacant and some post splitting may occur to lessen the impact on individuals.