No confidence in Leeds v-c as UCU members ballot for strike

Union claims proposed 10 per cent cut in academic staff would push Leeds to bottom of staff-student ratio table. John Morgan reports

November 13, 2009

Plans for job cuts at the University of Leeds will leave it with the highest ratio of students to staff of any institution in the Russell Group of large research-intensive universities, the University and College Union claims.

The union says that a 10 per cent cut in academic staff would push Leeds from its current position two thirds of the way down a ranking of Russell Group institutions according to staff-to-student ratio (SSR) to the bottom of the table.

The university, however, has rejected the claims as “highly speculative”.

Leeds has announced that it is planning for annual savings of about £35 million from 2010.

The university has not confirmed the precise number of job losses, but the UCU said the plan was for 10 per cent of academic staff to go.

It said strike action was “on the cards” after Leeds UCU members voted to ballot for strike action and passed a motion of no confidence in Michael Arthur, the vice-chancellor.

At present Leeds has an SSR of 15.8:1, the UCU says, which is better than local rivals and fellow Russell Group members the University of Manchester (15.9:1), the University of Sheffield (16.4:1) and Newcastle University (17.0:1).

However, the union claims that cutting jobs would raise the SSR to 17.6:1 and push Leeds to the bottom of the Russell Group table.

The union based its calculations on figures for 2007-08 from the Higher Education Statistics Agency.

Sally Hunt, the UCU general secretary, said: “The University of Leeds has a proud reputation, and I fail to understand why it would want to risk seriously damaging it. UCU members at Leeds have made it clear that they will fight to save jobs and the institution’s reputation, and they have the full support of the national union.”

A Leeds spokeswoman said: “Clearly it is not possible to reduce staff without affecting the staff-to-student ratio, but claims that this will put Leeds at the bottom of a league table are highly speculative.

“Every university in the land will also be taking steps to cut costs. We will do our utmost to preserve academic excellence, high-quality education and the integration of teaching and research at the university.”

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