OU staff express anger over centre closure

Open letter over plan to shut East Grinstead regional centre and review others

June 19, 2014

More than 50 disgruntled employees of The Open University have signed an open letter expressing “profound concern” about plans to close one of its regional centres.

They say that a decision to close the centre in East Grinstead, combined with plans to review the status of the institution’s other English regional offices, place around 700 jobs – a fifth of the OU’s full-time workforce – at risk.

“The East Grinstead closure is being pushed through against the wishes of the university’s highest academic body, the senate, without a clear business plan and in defiance of previous assurances to staff,” the letter, published today in The Guardian, says.

“Cheaper alternatives to the current building (the lease of which has come up for renewal) have not been properly explored. The university says it will try to relocate the 64 staff to London, but even if posts become available this will not be an affordable option for many colleagues in the south-east.”

It adds that with the results of a review of the other regional centres due next year, there is concern that the OU’s presence in some of England’s main cities is under threat.

“We believe the loss of these regional offices would mark the end of The Open University’s historic mission to be open to people and places everywhere in the UK,” the letter says. “More, it would threaten the OU’s model of ‘blended learning’ where, particularly on first-level courses, online delivery is combined with local tutoring and student support.”

The university currently has 10 regional centres in England (including East Grinstead), with all except London to be subject to the forthcoming OU review.

A spokesman for the university said that the decision to close East Grinstead, which is set to shut its doors by the end of the year, had “not been taken lightly”, and followed plans by the landlord to convert the building into residential accommodation. 

“Other premises were prohibitively expensive and the end of the lease presented an opportunity to redirect funding away from property and directly into services for students,” he said.

“We do not expect this move to result in any compulsory redundancies; however there will be the option for staff to be redeployed, relocate or take early retirement or voluntary severance, and we are working to support those affected in assessing their options.”

The separate review of offices across the UK is yet to begin, he continued, adding that it was “completely misleading” to suggest that 700 jobs are at risk. “This review will ensure that we are supporting our students – who now bear the cost of services through fees – in the most effective way possible.”

chris.parr@tsleducation.com

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford will host a homeopathy conference next month

Charity says Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford is ‘naive’ to hire out its premises for event

women leapfrog. Vintage

Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O’Gorman offer advice on climbing the career ladder

Woman pulling blind down over an eye
Liz Morrish reflects on why she chose to tackle the failings of the neoliberal academy from the outside
White cliffs of Dover

From Australia to Singapore, David Matthews and John Elmes weigh the pros and cons of likely destinations

Michael Parkin illustration (9 March 2017)

Cramming study into the shortest possible time will impoverish the student experience and drive an even greater wedge between research-enabled permanent staff and the growing underclass of flexible teaching staff, says Tom Cutterham