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Taking action in higher education

Fear for students' graduations at University of Westminster as industrial action starts to bite

25 June 2010 | last updated: 11 December 2015

There are fears that students at the University of Westminster will not graduate this summer because of marks being held back by lecturers in a row over job losses.

Members of UCU  started their action on 21 May and its impact is now being felt in the run up to graduations.

Across the institution around half of students' marks are being held back. This is despite threats from the university to dock half the wages of staff involved in the action. The row centres on the university's attempts to axe 30 members of staff by the end of July – a move the union has described as unjustified and unnecessary.

The University of Westminster has strong cash reserves and UCU says it fails to understand the haste with which the university wants to axe staff or why it went against the standard practice of offering all staff the option of voluntary redundancy.

The job losses look set to hit computer science the hardest and staff in that department are currently going through an interview process to apply for their jobs. However, half the staff will lose their jobs if the university presses ahead with its plans. Members of the department say they do not expect the department to survive the year with so few staff.

UCU Westminster representative, Peter McLoughlin, said: 'Management's decision to axe staff before the end of July has never been justified by any of the figures the university has produced and savings could be made over a longer period without making people redundant. The university's actions are totally unnecessary, especially in light of the recent admission that they have £53m in the bank.

'Holding back marks is a last resort for our members, but they are not prepared to sit back and watch the university take an unnecessary axe to Westminster's proud reputation for excellent teaching. The bottom line is you cannot do more for less and we will harm future students' education if we don't act now.'

There will be a meeting on Monday 28 June between the union and the university with the arbitration service ACAS in attempt to break the deadlock.