Swansea v-c admits taking axe to good-quality departments

February 13, 2004

Richard Davies, the vice-chancellor of Swansea University, has admitted that four departments he is proposing to close are all of good quality and are recruiting well, writes Tony Tysome.

The Association of University Teachers at Swansea has called for the university's governing council to resign over the plans to phase out chemistry, philosophy, sociology and anthropology and development studies.

They claim that the university's governors and Professor Davies acted "improperly" by not consulting on the restructuring plans, and that the disciplines that will be "allowed to shrink naturally" under the proposals are financially and academically healthy.

Professor Davies told The Times Higher that there was "some truth" to the claim that the departments "are good in most dimensions".

But he added: "The problem is that we just have too many small departments, so we have decided to reduce the number so we can have more that are excellent rather than just good."

The university expects that about 35 academic posts will have to be shed as a result of the restructuring, although there will be no compulsory redundancies. Resources will be redirected to other departments, including history, English, computing and psychology and to a new management school.

About 75 new posts will be created.

Professor Davies denied that there had been inadequate consultation on the proposals. He said: "There has been extensive debate on whether we should do this and on what criteria. The plans have received overwhelming support overall."

But Howard Moss, Swansea AUT's spokesman, said there appeared to be no logical rationale behind the plans to close departments. All the disciplines under threat enjoyed significantly higher increases in undergraduate applications this year than the 7.6 per cent rise overall for the university.

He said: "It seems to us the vice-chancellor is acting like a bull in a china shop. He seems to have simply decided there are certain areas he wants to expand at the expense of others. The departments identified for closure might as well have been drawn out of a hat."

Professor Davies was due to hold a public meeting yesterday to put the case for his restructuring plans. Weekly meetings have also been held with union representatives.

Mr Moss said: "We are making some progress, but there is still a long way to go."

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