Quality rap for institute

May 10, 1996

Southampton Institute's extensive links with overseas colleges are criticised in an audit report from the Higher Education Quality Council due to be published next month.

This comes at a time when the institute's director, David Leyland, is facing criticism from lecturers' union Natfhe for trying to push through a major reorganisation of the faculty structure which the union fears will lead to substantial job losses.

Professor Leyland has asked the HEQC if he can see the audit report for a second time before it is published. Institutions are normally only allowed one chance to voice their concerns about an audit report. The audit is understood to be critical of the institute's international franchise operation. Professor Leyland acknowledged that the audit report "makes some suggestions about what we could do better" in terms of overseas links.

The institute has developed links with colleges across Europe and Asia, including Athens, Bombay and Moscow. Professor Leyland admitted that the institute's foreign campus operations - one in Athens and one in Alicante, Spain - were not yet making money.

The investment in foreign campuses contrasts with the cost-cutting on the Southampton campus. Last year the institute lost Pounds 1.35 million in its HEFCE allocation. Academic staff now fear a round of redundancies intended to claw back around Pounds 350,000 this year.

Last week the nine deans of faculty were summoned to the director's office and told they would have to reapply for their jobs because only six faculties would remain by the beginning of the new academic year.

It is understood that the social sciences faculty will be abolished and the courses split between law and the built environment, that systems engineering and maritime will be combined, and that design and media, which were only recently separated, will be recombined.

Natfhe spokesman Mick Jardine said: "This reorganisation has been done without consultation with the unions. While we deplore the Government cuts, it seems to us that Southampton Institute has been plunged into chaos by the precipitate action of David Leyland."

But Professor Leyland said that the consultation process had only just begun - although he revealed it to would be completed as early as the end of next week. He said that the academic board and management, around 60 people, would have been consulted by then.

On the reduction of faculties from nine to six, he said: "The general feedback from the deans was that it was a good idea." But he added: "I wouldn't say every dean was in favour".

In a memorandum circulated to the institute's management team on May 2, Professor Leyland said that "no compulsory redundancies are expected". He added that "thirty additional lecturing staff" will be recruited. But staff fear that abolishing or merging three faculties can only mean job losses of academic and administrative staff.

Members of the doomed social sciences faculty have signed a resolution refusing to cooperate in the transfer of faculty to other departments and to carry on operating the faculty as it presently stands.

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