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University of Kent staff vote to strike over course closure 'bonfire' as VC quits

5 April 2024

Staff at the University of Kent have backed strike action in defence of jobs. The result comes as the person in charge of the cuts, vice-chancellor Karen Cox, announces she will step down in May, before they are even implemented.

An overwhelming 85% of UCU members who voted said yes to strike action in a ballot with a turnout of 57%. The vote comes after 58 staff were placed at risk of redundancy as part of a programme that would see courses closed across the university. 

Courses set to go include art history, music and audio technology, philosophy, religious studies, anthropology, health and social care, and journalism. A petition to save the courses has now reached over 16k signatures. Management also wants to slash the amount of time staff have allocated to research from 40% to as little as 20%.

Kent says it needs to make the cuts to "focus on core growth areas" and "achieve a sustainable financial model". But the cuts to courses will severely damage student learning and create academic cold spots so future students from the local area will be unable to access arts, humanities and social sciences courses, impacting the university's widening participation goals. While research time cuts will harm the university's academic standing and ability to conduct world leading research.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: 'Vice-chancellor Karen Cox looks like an arsonist trying to flee the scene now that her resignation has been announced. These cuts amount to a bonfire of undergraduate courses, they will have devastating consequences on the university and its local community and must now be halted immediately. Staff and students urgently need a new senior leadership team that will work with us to build a sustainable future for the university.

'If management refuses to listen to staff and instead tries to push ahead with its cuts agenda, our members have made it clear they are prepared to strike.'

Last updated: 8 April 2024