Text book dilemma for SSEES

May 30, 1997

A funding council "anomaly" has forced an across-the-board early retirement programme at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, its director said this week.

SSEES lost Pounds 250,000 in the last research assessment exercise, following the downgrading of two top-grade 5s to grade 4s. The college has now invited all 22 members of staff over the age of 50 to consider early retirement.

A letter circulated by Maria Widdowson, finance officer and clerk to the council, said the necessary savings "can only be achieved" by staff cuts.

According to Ms Widdowson, the school is anxious to avoid compulsory redundancies and to make the necessary savings "through normal staff losses and voluntary redundancies".

Michael Branch, director of SSEES, said that an anomalous approach to funding from the Higher Education Funding Council for England had created the problem.

In 1995, Hefce reviewed former Soviet and East European studies courses and funded seven new academic posts at SSEES on the basis of fulfilling national and business interests, said Dr Branch. "But responding to these important national interests has brought us into conflict with the criteria for the RAE."

Since the breakup of the Soviet Bloc many SSEES academics had been working on basic, but essential new text books and language guides, which were not eligible for the RAE, he added. "What business wants is not what the RAE assessors want."

It is understood that SSEES is appealing for talks with Hefce.

A Hefce spokesman said: "Our research is highly selective and mechanistic. And it is quite separate to the special initiative SSEES refers to, which was not just about research quality."

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