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Taking action in higher education

UCU responds to government's call for notification of university departments at risk

23 November 2006 | last updated: 15 December 2015

Today's <em>Times Higher Education Supplement</em> has reported that the education secretary, Alan Johnson, has written to the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) asking for early notification of future university departments at risk from closure.

UCU joint general secretary, Sally Hunt, said in response: 'It is helpful that ministers are belatedly acknowledging that their refusal to act over department closures is endangering wider policy objectives such as the expansion of science provision, the widening participation agenda and the encouragement of teaching excellence.

'Sadly this comes too late for the renowned physics department at Reading University. The recent shameful game of political pass the parcel between the government and the funding council allowed Reading's vice-chancellor, Gordon Marshall, to close the department earlier this week.

'What remains unclear is how the funding council will gather information on future closures and what it or the government will do with the information, especially if both can still hide behind the cloak of university autonomy when it suits them.

'We have heard many warm words from ministers in recent weeks, but nothing they said was any help when it came to loss of another strategically important science department. The case of Reading, where the decision to close was taken against the clear wishes of faculty, the student body and the international academic community, will not be the last unless we have an open and transparent process for future closures.'