Outrage at restructure for Queen's

September 4, 1998

More than 100 academics at Queen's University, Belfast have severely criticised a radical re-structuring plan and urged vice- chancellor George Bain to reconsider it.

In a joint letter, they said it was difficult to imagine how the damage already inflicted can be put right. The senior staff, including many with international reputations, said Mr Bain's actions were unjust, unjustifiable and showed a lack of understanding of how the university's disparate academic departments work.

The radical revamp - one of the most dramatic in the United Kingdom - follows a strategic review last year aiming to enhance Queen's as a research-based university. It included the loss of entire departments, including geology and Italian.

It involves a Pounds 25 million investment in new staff, to be partly financed by the loss of around 100 senior employees - more than 10 per cent of existing levels.

But most of those who signed the letter are not facing redundancy or taking early retirement. The 103 academics, who include the writer and professor Edna Longley, said: "In compiling the list of targeted staff, the university focused on one criterion, namely projected activity in relation to the 2001 research assessment exercise ...

"Activities which sustain the life of any university, including teaching, administrative responsibilities and external activities, were given little consideration in the selection process and consequently many individuals who play a full and active role in the life of Queen's, and who have helped to sustain the university over the last 25 years, have received a letter inviting them to leave.

"It is difficult to imagine how the hurt and damage which has been inflicted can be put right, and the overall impact of the policy on general morale, goodwill and trust is already palpable."

Queen's, however, said the plan had already been approved by its ruling body, the senate. One academic under threat, who has been on the staff since 1964, said: "It is such an insult to be basically called a dud in this way."

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