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Taking action in higher education

Keele lecturers vote for strike action

18 February 2008 | last updated: 14 December 2015

Members of UCU at Keele University will be striking on Thursday 21 February after they voted overwhelmingly in favour of the action and 'action short of a strike' in their dispute with the University over job cuts.

Lecturers from the threatened School of Economic and Management Studies (SEMS) will strike on Thursday and their colleagues across the university will begin the action short of a strike. Staff say they have been forced to take the drastic action following university proposals which have left more than half (38) of the 67 academic staff in the world-renowned school facing redundancy.

The action short of a strike is designed to cause the maximum impact on the university without disrupting the education of students. That action will include:

  • non-cooperation with the institutional audit
  • non-cooperation with the development of new degree programmes for the new Business School
  • non-participation in Learning and Teaching committees and the design and approval of a new university-wide degree structure due to come into effect in September 2009
  • non-participation in visit days and open days
  • non-compliance with the collection of data for full economic costing.

Chair of the SEMS action committee at Keele University, Mike Ironside, said: 'We do not want to be taking this action, but the university has left us with no alternative. We remain optimistic the redundancy issue can be resolved without this action being taken, but the ball is very much in the university's court. The vice-chancellor can be in no doubt about the strength of feeling on this issue and now has to act to reverse this unfair and undemocratically reached decision.'

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'Keele UCU members have the full support of the national union in their action and can rest assured that we will be fighting these nonsensical redundancy plans all the way. The University's actions have already been condemned nationally and internationally and we will be galvanising support for the April demonstration if the university does not act. A poor track record on short-term decision making is no excuse for continued incompetence.'

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 normal decision-making processes.

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.

The ballot result:

80% of eligible UCU members, who voted, voted for strike action and 69% voted for 'action short of a strike'. Members of the School of Economic and Management Studies and the Centre for Health Planning and Management were balloted on strike action and the whole Keele UCU membership was balloted on action short of a strike.