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Anger as University of Portsmouth restarts process to slash jobs during Covid-19 crisis

12 June 2020

The University of Portsmouth is under fire over plans to axe more than half its English literature department. The university suspended the process in March saying it wanted to remove worry and anxiety for staff during the Covid-19 crisis.

The university said it is pressing ahead with the plans because Covid-19 restrictions have eased, although it has not confirmed when staff will be axed. The university's policy about staff working from home has not changed since March, nor have the circumstances of the affected staff. UCU said the only thing that seemed to have changed was the university's concern for its staff.

Eleven members of staff in the 13-strong department are at risk of losing their jobs under the plans to axe eight staff. Two of the members of the department are having to shield because one is at high risk of severe illness and another lives with a partner in the high risk category. Six members of staff have children of school age and the government has this week abandoned plans to open all schools before the summer.

The union said the case for the redundancies had not been properly made, even before the pandemic, and warned the cuts would leave the department unable to meet the demand from existing students. UCU said sacking teaching staff appeared at odds with the university's apparent commitment to teaching and the larger class sizes could put its recent gold standard award for teaching excellence at risk.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: 'The only thing that appears to have changed since March is the University of Portsmouth's concern for its staff. The university should have cancelled these unwarranted cuts in March and not left the axe hanging over the department. To try and justify an easing of Covid-19 restrictions to cut jobs in the middle of the pandemic is ridiculous.

'The university talks up the standard of its teaching, but high quality teaching relies on high quality teachers. The University of Portsmouth should work with us to make the case for government funding to defend its academic capacity, instead it is sending out a very worrying message about how little it values its staff and their health and well-being.'

Last updated: 29 November 2022