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Taking action in higher education

Staff redundancy threat at Keele University over closure plans

11 December 2007 | last updated: 14 December 2015

Keele University's council has approved a plan to close most of the School of Economic and Management Studies' current programmes in management, economics and industrial relations and human resource management.

Among the courses to be closed are part-time, distance-learning programmes that have made a major contribution to widening participation by attracting working students with non-standard qualifications.

The plan places 38 of the 67 academic staff in the school at risk of redundancy.

The university's council on 6 December established a 'redundancy committee' - the first time in the university's history that this has happened.

UCU which represents academic staff at Keele, says the university has over-reacted to enrolment figures.

UCU criticised the university for making its plan behind the backs of staff and unions. Normal consultation and decision-making processes have been bypassed: senate and faculties have had no opportunity to debate the proposals.

A small group of senior managers has already reviewed the position of each member of academic staff and classified them into two categories:

  1. appropriate skills and attributes; fits into proposed new structure
  2. skills and attributes do not fit with proposed new structure.

Thus effectively the redundancy selection process has already been completed.

The plan was presented to council by Janet Finch, Keele's vice-chancellor who last year was awarded a 31.7% pay rise to £212,000 as a solution to financial problems resulting from falling student numbers.

UCU members are being urged to attend a union meeting on Monday 17 December.

Colin Whitston, UCU local association president at Keele said: 'The proposed cut in courses is a disproportionate response to fluctuations in student demand affecting the whole faculty of humanities and social science. There is no reason to believe that replacing the School of Economic and Management Studies with a smaller business school will improve our recruitment position - more likely the reverse.

'Dedicated and talented staff face redundancy and excellent work on widening participation is at risk. The university should follow correct procedures and consult unions properly on this.'