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Keele University told to halt redundancy plans ahead of investigation

30 April 2008

Keele University has been asked by the Visitor of the university, the Right Honourable Baroness Ashton of Upholland, to take no further steps towards implementing redundancy proposals pending her inquiry into a complaint that it bypassed university rules to get the job cuts agreed.

Keele University Council established an unprecedented 'redundancy committee' on 6 December 2007, bypassing the normal consultation and decision-making processes at the university's senate or faculty meetings. That committee agreed plans that have left more than half (38) of the 67 academic staff in Keele's world-renowned School of Economic and Management Studies (SEMS) facing redundancy.

A complaint has been made to the Visitor over the fact that the restructuring has proceeded without the approval of Senate, as required by the charter and statutes of the university. The Visitor was asked by a member of the university to intervene in this matter.

The Visitor adjudicates on complaints about how the university conducts itself. UCU solicitors have now been notified that the Visitor has accepted the petition, made by Dr Peter Fletcher, and, pending consideration of it, the Visitor has asked the university to take no further steps towards implementing the proposals.

This 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, the university agreed to award degrees based on work already submitted, rather than wait for a student's full marks.

That policy 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.

Chair of the SEMS action committee at Keele University, Mike Ironside, said: 'Keele UCU has repeatedly called on university management to follow normal procedures. We welcome the news that the Visitor will be fully investigating what has happened here, and we hope that management will now take more notice of our members' views.'

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'No institution should think it can ride roughshod over its own constitution. Trying to rush these job cuts through at a quiet time of the year and outside its own internal structures was cowardly and offensive. The University can rest assured that UCU will be fighting this decision all the way.'

Last updated: 14 December 2015