Swansea axes 35 jobs in unpopular courses purge

January 30, 2004

Swansea University is set to phase out courses in five disciplines and shed 35 academic posts as part of a restructuring plan designed to boost its research ratings.

Richard Davies, Swansea vice-chancellor, announced this week the university was preparing to "redirect resources" from subjects with declining student numbers to those with buoyant demand and to invest in areas with the potential to achieve top scores in the research assessment exercise.

Subjects that will be shed include philosophy, sociology, anthropology, development studies and chemistry.

Those that will benefit from the savings are history, English, computing and psychology. About 75 new posts will be created along with a new management school. Expansion in the medical school and in health sciences will be funded separately.

Professor Davies said the restructuring was needed to "raise aspirations" in the university, particularly in research.

He said: "We have a large number of departments rated 3 and 4 in the RAE.

While in Wales we have been told that such departments will continue to get research funding, the assumption is that this is our last chance to bring them up to a higher rating.

"We are going to have to move to higher level research, or we are going to start losing money."

Professor Davies said that the areas to be phased out would be allowed to "shrink naturally". He said there would be no compulsory redundancies.

Students in the disciplines would not be affected, he said.

"All universities have from time to time to adjust their courses to changing patterns in student demand. This plan is exceptional because it enables Swansea to make such an adjustment while boosting the university's research status," he added.

Barry Johnson, the Association of University Teachers' officer for Wales, said the changes were likely to have an impact on provision throughout Wales.

"There is a question about how much damage is caused to the profile of higher education in Wales when an institution pulls out of a subject area.

It may also be hard to protect the position of existing students since it is bound to have a knock-on effect on their studies when staff begin to leave," he said.

Swansea's AUT has called for a vote of no confidence in the university's governing council over the restructuring plan.

Andrew Morgan, AUT president at Swansea, said: "Senior managers have replaced consultation with secrecy, so much so that some staff discovered that their departments were to be closed only by listening to the news on local radio stations."

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