A report aiming to transform the fortunes of Hull University could lead to more than 50 compulsory redundancies, union leaders have warned.
The "restricted" report was drawn up by the university's Way Forward Group. It is trying to solve "serious challenges to future prospects", by repositioning Hull as a top 20 institution and doubling its research output.
Under the proposals, the department of European languages and cultures will be disbanded, intakes to single honours language programmes will end and staff numbers will be cut by 50 per cent. The number of engineering staff will also be cut by 50 per cent and there will be no intakes to professional engineering programmes after 2001. Other changes include closing the International Fisheries Institute and the Food Health Quality Unit; a merged chemistry and physics department with reduced staffing; disbanding economic studies; and merging drama and music.
The report warns that Hull lies among the "bottom markers of pre-1992 universities and has been overtaken by four from the post-1992 group" in attracting research grants. "Too many departments and individual staff members contribute too little by way of cutting-edge research or research grant income," the report says.
The university insists staffing cuts will be on a voluntary basis "wherever possible" but acknowledges that in areas targeted for reductions alternative offers may not always be acceptable.
The Association of University Teachers said job losses could not be considered voluntary if departments were targeted for closure or merger. "There are between 50 and 60 jobs in jeopardy now," said Janet Blackman of Hull AUT. "The climate throughout has been secretive, keeping academic staff in the dark about the overall trajectory being devised."
In a debate by the senate on Wednesday, members requested the group look again at the severity of proposals for engineering and modern languages.
The university has halved its £5 million deficit and should break even over the next year.