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Outrage over 'callous' fire & rehire threat at SOAS

29 February 2024

UCU has launched an indicative ballot on taking strike action at SOAS, University of London over fire and rehire plans that place 34 staff at risk of losing their jobs and being rehired on worse terms and conditions. The cuts would eliminate all term time English-language and study skills support for international students. 

The indicative ballot runs until Wednesday 6 March and a successful result paves the way for an industrial ballot and strike action if SOAS management refuses to rule out compulsory redundancies.

Last week SOAS announced that all 34 of its foundation college's international foundation courses and English language Studies (IFCELS) staff will be put in a redundancy pool and forced to reapply for their jobs.

However, many of those positions and their grades are set to disappear from what the university management describes as a "legacy" service, meaning they may not have jobs to reapply to.

IFCELS has provided foundation courses and language support to international students at SOAS since 1985. UCU warned the elimination of all term time English language support will devastate the quality of education on offer at SOAS for international students, whose fees make up a significant proportion of the university's income. 

The cuts come despite SOAS's own figures show it made a surplus of £12.8m last year. The university has claimed IFCELS is running a shortfall of £65k a year, but UCU said that calculation fails to take into account its wider impact on educational provision. 

UCU SOAS branch chair Kerem Nisancioglu said: 'Our members are being asked to vote yes to strike action and defend a crucial service for international students. It's not clear why SOAS is cutting staff while making profits. University management claim these services are returning a deficit of only £65k, but even this figure is misleading when set against the benefit they make to educational provision. 

'SOAS, as a whole, made over £12m last year. Meanwhile, the wider department that is subject to these cuts is generating a financial surplus. There is simply no tenable financial argument for making these cuts. It's hard to see them as anything other than callous.

'This provision is crucial for student retention, progression and attainment and if the cuts go through SOAS would be setting international students up to fail. SOAS urgently needs to halt these plans and end its fire and rehire threat to avoid the possibility of strike action.'

Last updated: 29 February 2024