Plymouth to axe staff to save cash

Some 100 academic posts under threat following a strategic review. Rebecca Attwood reports

September 25, 2008

The University of Plymouth has announced that more than 220 of its 3,400 staff are set to lose their jobs in an effort to tackle financial difficulties.

In a statement, Plymouth said it had to reduce its staff numbers by about 6.5 per cent following a strategic review. Some 100 academics are to go.

The institution said it was seeking to reduce its costs by £10 million "to correct a historic overspend".

Wendy Purcell, the university's vice-chancellor, said: "We are an excellent university and are now shaping ourselves to sustain a great future. There will be the need for a small number of redundancies. However, we hope to achieve the majority of these through voluntary means and will do all we can to minimise the number of compulsory redundancies.

"We are taking great care in the way we do this to protect our academic standing as an institution."

The University and College Union (UCU) said it blamed financial mismanagement for the redundancies and argued it was unfair that its members had to pay the price.

Mike Sheaff, president of the UCU branch at Plymouth, said: "Great distress and anxiety has been caused by this announcement, particularly at a time when staff are working hard to welcome the 30,000 new and returning students at the start of the academic year."

He added: "The information we have at present is very limited, and we are urgently seeking more details from the university to enable us to engage in meaningful negotiations."

Professor Purcell, herself a Plymouth graduate, took up the post in December last year after the previous head, Roland Levinsky, was killed in a freak accident when a live power cable electrocuted him while he was out walking on New Year's Day 2007.

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the UCU, said the union believed a multi-million building programme Professor Levinsky had put in place, and a policy of centralising the university to Plymouth, had been major factors in the build-up of the deficit.

She said: "We have raised questions about the university's deficit in the past and believe the university took its eye off the ball during the ten months it took to appoint a new vice-chancellor... We have every faith in the university as an educational institution, but we will continue to criticise the management when they are found wanting."

The strategic review, launched in May, aims to help Plymouth achieve its ambition to become "the enterprise university serving the needs of its city, region and beyond".

The job cuts will not affect the new Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry.

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