No confidence vote in Leicester v-c as 145 at risk of redundancy

Union branch passes motion in response to plan to axe some 60 jobs

January 26, 2021
University of Leicester
Source: iStock

Union members at the University of Leicester have voted in favour of a motion of no confidence in the vice-chancellor in response to the threat of redundancies across the university.

The institution’s University and College Union branch “overwhelmingly voted no confidence” in Nishan Canagarajah and the institution’s executive board. The motion was put forward in the wake of the announcement that 145 staff were at risk of redundancy, with about 60 jobs expected to go.

Several subjects have been targeted for cuts, including medieval and modern languages, political economy and pure maths.

The union branded the decision by university leadership to push ahead with redundancies amid the Covid crisis as “cruel and divisive”.

It also said the branch had unanimously passed a motion to ballot for sustained industrial action to halt the job cuts.

Sarah Seaton, chair of the Leicester UCU branch, said “staff are now facing a triple workload crisis. We were overworked before Covid. Then we struggled through the pandemic, continuing to educate and support our students, even as university managers abandoned hundreds of our casualised colleagues. Now they are threatening 145 more staff with the chop.

“We are all working around the clock to support our students and each other. The university cannot afford to make any of us redundant.”

Jo Grady, the UCU general secretary, added that axeing jobs in “the middle of this pandemic is particularly vindictive and self-defeating”.

“In planning to shut down entire courses, the university is also imperilling its international reputation. Singling out specific disciplines for cuts harms academic freedom and will diminish both teaching and research. The vice-chancellor and the executive board must withdraw the threats of redundancies and guarantee the job security of all staff in affected departments,” Dr Grady said.

A Leicester spokeswoman said the university was “naturally disappointed to learn about [the] vote of no confidence”.

“We are currently in the process of consulting with colleagues about our proposals for change, and want to stress that no final decisions will be taken until this process comes to an end,” she said.

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Reader's comments (3)

“We are currently in the process of consulting with colleagues about our proposals for change, and want to stress that no final decisions will be taken until this process comes to an end” This is PR/HR codswallop. The VC and his senior management had already decided, which disciplines and subject areas they wanted to "divest", prior to any consultation. The departments and schools were not involved or asked. In the business school, for example, only colleagues of certain subject areas were singled out for redundancies: critical studies and political economy. This smacks of a purge on ideological grounds. This clearly is a move against academic freedom and a power grab by the university senior team (to determine the curriculum and research of a department); inspired and encouraged by outside "consultants" if you believe the grapevine. If this succeeds and forms a precedent for others, you can say goodbye to academic freedom and the last remnants of academic self-determination in the UK. Dark times ahead.
Academic freedom has long been under threat, UK universities need to scale down on the number of bureaucrats first - silly meetings, silly piles of paper, silly strategies and silly PR stunts and instead concentrate on allowing academics to get on with the actual teaching and research.
Open Letter to University of Leicester (please sign if you support the staff):