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Protestors angry at refusal to consider options to prevent department cull at Liverpool University

11 March 2009 | last updated: 12 March 2019

The philosophy, politics and communications and statistics departments at Liverpool University are still at risk following a meeting of the university's senate this afternoon to the backdrop of noisy protests from staff and students.

Vice-chancellor, Sir Howard Newby, refused to discuss a motion put to the senate by UCU calling for a decision on any closures to be delayed until there had been full and open consultation with staff and students. The senate did pull away from making a final decision on whether or not the departments should be closed immediately. However, the union said tonight it was still concerned the departments faced the axe, despite the stay of execution.

In a tight vote, the senate voted 81-62 not to withdraw the document proposing sweeping changes to the university, including the departmental closures. Although, following a protracted debate, plans to make the closure of the departments mandatory in June were scrapped. Students and staff held a noisy protest from 1pm and after the meeting, UCU said the campaign to save the departments had only just begun and warned that strike action could be on the cards.

'No university can build and maintain an international reputation for excellence if it panics and starts axing departments every time it spots a short-term problem'
Sally Hunt
UCU general secretary

Dr Fionnghuala Sweeney, vice-president of the Liverpool University UCU branch, said: 'We welcome the stay of execution but are disappointed the vice-chancellor refused to put our motion outright rejecting the proposals to the senate. It will be up to the members here at Liverpool University to decide our next steps, but the university can rest assured that industrial action remains an option. We see today as the first battle in our campaign to save the departments.

"It was quite clear to anybody in or around the university that the staff and students are united in the campaign to fight the closures. That is because we are committed to preserving Liverpool University as a fully rounded institution where teaching, learning and research remain core activities.'

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'No university can build and maintain an international reputation for excellence if it panics and starts axing departments every time it spots a short-term problem. The staff and students at Liverpool have the full backing of the national union.'

A motion has been tabled in the House of Commons by Peter Kilfoyle, MP for Liverpool Walton, deploring the planned closures of the departments. It also backed students and staff in their fight against any closures including today's protest and the lobby of the meeting. UCU has warned that Liverpool University could put its proud international reputation at risk if it pushed ahead with knee-jerk cuts based on short-term priorities.

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