Vice-chancellor's move to cut 90 jobs ruled illegal

February 14, 2003

The Privy Council has declared that moves to make staff redundant at Hull University were illegal.

The local branch of the Association of University Teachers said that the university broke its own rules in a bid to make up to 90 staff redundant.

Ruling on the complaint, the Privy Council found that the governing council wrongly delegated powers to the vice-chancellor to deal with staff cuts. It also ruled that the council meeting that agreed to delegate powers to the vice-chancellor was inquorate.

The Privy Council, acting as the university's visitor, asked the university to reconsider the remit of its vice-chancellor with regard to redundancies and to consider "how best to maintain a proper quorum at council meetings while ensuring transparency".

But Penny Grubb, Hull AUT president, said: "Since the university authorities seem hell-bent on cut after cut, this victory is really only a stay of execution."

The threat to 90 staff, 10 per cent of the academic and related workforce, is on top of several hundred jobs lost in the past four years.

Hull warned last October that compulsory redundancies were likely as a voluntary scheme had failed to produce enough cuts. It suffered a real-terms cut of 1.2 per cent in annual funding last year.

A university spokesman said: "We fully respect the decision of the visitor and have taken appropriate action."

He said that no decisions about the number of redundancies had been made.

"If any job losses are required, they will be kept to a minimum."

• The University of Lincoln is to close its fine art programmes in Hull because it cannot make them pay, it emerged this week. Thirteen staff face redundancy, although they may be redeployed.

A spokesman said the course fell "a long way short" of covering basic costs and was being heavily cross-subsidised by other courses. Fine art courses in Hull have struggled to attract sufficient numbers of applications, and recruitment to the course for September 2003 was suspended in November.

Plans for a £2 million refurbishment of the Queens Gardens campus, where art courses are taught, will still go ahead.

• The AUT this week urged Heriot-Watt University to back off from job losses at its school of textiles until there are discussions with the unions.

Between ten and 15 staff at Heriot-Watt's Scottish Borders campus in Galashiels face redundancy after a drastic drop in the number of students applying for textile technology and science-led courses. While fashion design has seen a 200 per cent increase in the number of applications in the past year, on the science and technology side there are only ten students on eight courses.

The university has pledged to meet its commitments to existing students.

Heriot-Watt is already cutting 139 jobs by September, 132 of them by the end of this month, in a restructuring programme designed to stave off a multimillion-pound deficit.

Glasgow School of Art is holding talks with staff unions about job losses.

A spokesperson said the school had to reduce staff costs because it faced a worsening financial situation, including increased employers' national insurance and pension contributions, and a cut in its teaching grant from the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council.

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