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University of Roehampton academics under mass redundancy threat

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A south London university is planning to axe 64 academics in a move that has been slammed as “heartbreaking” by staff.

226 academics at the University of Roehampton have been notified their jobs are at risk, according to staff.

The proposed job losses mainly target arts, humanities and social science subjects, according to the University and College Union (UCU).

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Union bosses say subjects such as creative writing, classics, therapy and photography will no longer be taught if the proposals, which are under consultation, go ahead.

UCU says the university “intends to make those who want to stay compete for far fewer new jobs, many of which will be short-term contracts to teach out the courses that are being shut down”.

The union says the changes would allow the university to “push students into ‘graduate-level’ jobs and focus more on ‘skills led’ learning”. 

The university says changing demand for courses and financial challenges are behind the proposals. 

Staff have taken to Twitter to express outrage at the “heartbreaking plans”.

A senior lecturer at Roehampton tweeted: “This is effectively dismantling what had become one of the best modern universities in the region. It’s heartbreaking.”

Another tweet reads: “I hope that Roehampton reconsiders, if not for the talented faculty who will be left adrift, or for the future students who will be shoehorned into these ‘practical’ disciplines. Perhaps for their bottom line [and] their standing on the university league tables.”

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A third said they were in “utter despair” about the “cruel” announcements. She wrote: “Having seen Roe staff go above and beyond to support their students, I’m outraged that they are now facing this.”

Jo Grady, UCU general secretary, called the plans an “assault on education” and vowed to fight them.

She said: “Vice-chancellors of post-92 universities should be fighting a government agenda that wants to stifle opportunities for working class students, instead Roehampton seems to believe that its students don’t deserve to access the arts and humanities.”

She added: “The University of Roehampton urgently needs to rethink these plans before it does everlasting damage to its reputation as an academic institution.”

In a statement, the University of Roehampton said management will be consulting on ceasing new enrolments to a “small number” of courses which have seen a fall in demand, and are launching new “career-focussed courses” across all academic departments – including the humanities.

The statement said: “Like many UK universities, we are seeing student demand evolving, with some subject areas attracting great demand, and we are also facing financial challenges due to a range of factors, including caps on regulated tuition fees and the removal of the ‘London Weighting’ element of the teaching grant.

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“As a result, we are proposing changes to rebalance our resources and achieve our vision of providing an excellent student experience and delivering successful graduate outcomes in a sustainable way.

“This will involve making some difficult and challenging decisions. [In] the proposals[,] which are subject to consultation progress, we anticipate a net reduction of around 64 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) academic posts overall.”

It added: “The university’s terms and conditions for staff are not changing. We are doing our utmost to support everyone affected through this period, and have established dedicated support services for all our staff, as well as our student community.”

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