All out for USS

Open University strike going ahead following approval of regional centre closure plans

24 November 2015 | last updated: 10 December 2015

UCU members at the Open University will stage a one-day walk-out tomorrow following the university's decision to push ahead with controversial plans to close seven regional centres, putting 502 jobs at risk.

The proposals were approved at a meeting of the university's council today, despite widespread opposition from staff, students and the public.

UCU members have called the one-day walkout across all Open University sites tomorrow, with further rolling one-day strikes at the different sites to begin on 30 November*. The strikes will be the first time staff have taken action over a local dispute in the university's history.

The seven centres earmarked for closure are in Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Gateshead, Leeds, London and Oxford. However, UCU members at the other Open University offices in Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Milton Keynes, Manchester and Nottingham will join the one-day strike tomorrow.

Staff in the local offices evaluate and support students with disabilities, provide course materials, assign tutorial groups, run examination arrangements, advise on study options and manage the hugely popular degree ceremonies. UCU said it would be a devastating blow to lose so much expertise and has questioned why so many centres are being hit at the same time.

The closure plans have also come in for heavy criticism from the university's academic body, which last month rejected the plans describing them as "very high risk" and saying that they "failed to support the academic mission of the university". 

A petition against the closures has received over 6,400 signatures and Bassetlaw MP John Mann has tabled an early day motion in the House of Commons opposing the closure of the regional centres.

UCU Open University branch president Pauline Collins said: 'It is deeply disappointing that the university has chosen to push ahead with these widely criticised plans. The closures are opposed by staff, students, former students and politicians. Our senate, which is the academic body of the university, rejected the plans as high risk and failing to support the mission of the university.

'Nobody wants to take strike action, but we have now been left with no alternative. The university needs to listen to our concerns and abandon these damaging proposals.'

* Staff whose employment is connected to each regional centre will take further strike action on the following dates:

Monday 30 November: Birmingham 

Tuesday 1 December: London

Wednesday 2 December: Oxford 

Thursday 3 December: Leeds 

Friday 4 December: Gateshead 

Monday 7 December: Cambridge

Tuesday 8 December: Bristol 

Wednesday 9 December: Nottingham

Thursday 10 December: Manchester

Friday 11 December: BelfastCardiffEdinburgh and Milton Keynes national offices