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Taking action in higher education

Protests planned for chancellor's speech in Keele University jobs row

21 January 2008 | last updated: 14 December 2015

UCU will be protesting at Keele University this evening as Keele University chancellor, Professor Sir David Weatherall, delivers a lecture on medicine.

The protestors will be voicing their dissent at the university's plans which have left more than half (38) of the 67 academic staff in Keele's world-renowned School of Economic and Management Studies facing redundancy.

In December the union accused the University of ignoring normal procedures to rush through the proposed redundancies after Keele University Council established an unprecedented 'redundancy committee', which bypassed the normal consultation and decision-making processes at the university's senate or faculty meetings.

As well as being chancellor of Keele University, Professor Weatherall is the Regius Professor of Medicine Emeritus at Oxford University and is delivering a lecture entitled 'Personalised Medicine: Fact or Fantasy?' The protestors will be handing out leaflets from 6.00pm outside the Westminster Theatre in the Chancellor's Building on Keele Campus. Professor Weatherall is due to speak at 6.30pm. More protests are planned if the University does not reverse its decision.

The rushed redundancies plan is not the first time Keele University has been accused of ignoring standard practice to try and push through controversial plans. During the pay dispute of 2006, where lecturers were not marking coursework or setting exams, Keele University agreed to award degrees based on work already submitted, rather than wait for a student's full marks.

That decision prompted serious questions about the potential quality of degrees at Keele with the Quality Assurance Agency refusing to back the plans. Fortunately the dispute was resolved before graduation day.

Speaking ahead of tonight's protests, Keele UCU president, Colin Whitson, said: 'The strength of feeling at Keele on the redundancies is quite clear. Local members have already voted unanimously to ballot for strike action and to call for a national boycott of Keele if the University does not reverse its decision. We will be out in force this evening making sure that the Chancellor is under no illusion how Keele staff feel about these unnecessary and unfair job cuts.'

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'Keele University can rest assured that if does decide to try and push through these hurried and nonsensical redundancy plans we will fight them all the way. The protestors at the Chancellor's speech have my full support. We are fully aware of Keele University's management's history of poor short-term decision making, but incompetence on its part does not excuse these proposed redundancies.'