UCU suspends assessment ban as Keele yields on restructuring

June 19, 2008

A breakthrough has been achieved in the industrial dispute at Keele University, where restructuring plans had driven the University and College Union to declare an academic boycott of the institution.

The row over plans for changes at the School of Economics and Management Studies (SEMS) had escalated to a boycott that was due to begin this week.

However, at the eleventh hour, a meeting between Janet Finch, the vice-chancellor, and union representatives has averted "greylisting" by the union.

The UCU's industrial action, which included a boycott of student assessment, has also been suspended.

The agreement to negotiate includes a number of concessions by the university, but it was made too late to prevent disruption of a conference at Keele this week.

A number of academics withdrew from the one-day colloquium, which had been billed as a celebration of the social sciences and humanities at Keele, in support of the UCU's position.

One of those who withdrew, Richard Sennett, professor of sociology at the London School of Economics, said he had also intended to refuse an honorary doctorate.

The dispute focuses on plans to replace the SEMS with a new business school, with the threat of accompanying compulsory redundancies.

Sue Davis, the UCU's regional representative, said the university had reiterated its pledge to do all it could to avoid compulsory redundancies.

Keele also agreed to extend the period for voluntary redundancies to January 2009.

Ms Davis said the university had promised that academics would be engaged in the restructuring process, and had also agreed not to deduct pay in respect of the industrial action already taken.

In a statement, Keele said it was "delighted" that a breakthrough had been achieved. It said it was "confident that we can now move forward towards our goal to create a vibrant and successful school of management".

john.gill@tsleducation.com.

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