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University of Gloucestershire staff fight back
The University of Gloucestershire (UoG) is £36 million in debt and plans £3 million of cuts by July 2010. Last week UoG staff and students demonstrated demanding an end to all compulsory redundancies, and a reversal of cuts to services.
In December University and College Union (UCU) members unanimously backed strike action. The branch chair Gwen Chaney said: "instead of sacking staff the university should be putting pressure on the government to allow us to take more students."
UoG has been described as having a culture of "the higher the risk, the greater the reward" and of being "seduced by the ideology of enterprise." One example was the speculative purchase of the £8.3 million East London campus. Apparently a former dean, Keith Sharp, undertook numerous foreign trips to recruit students for it. The site is due for closure, as well as the vibrant Cheltenham-based art campus, with 30 enforced redundancies at the faculty of education, humanities and sciences.
Despite the funding crisis vice chancellor Patricia Broadfoot received a £34,000 increase in income to £202,000. Meanwhile 100 staff members have taken early retirement or voluntary redundancy. So staff and students are expected to pay for the mess.
Senior management are conducting an 'academic efficiency review'. Lecturer and UCU member Kate North says: "the ones that were responsible for the mismanagement of finances are now conducting the review." Consultants have been hired to manage these cuts, including the closure and amalgamation of courses, cuts to library services, restrictions on teaching materials and the axing of a free student bus service.
Many students back the lecturers' campaign. Liam Hamilton, an organiser of the 1,000 strong student Facebook site 'Support Our Lecturers' said: "I pay over £3,000 a year in fees, I don't think it's right that the university is cutting services and not fees." Unfortunately student union president Leigh Moore has refused to support any UCU strike action.
In universities like Wolverhampton and Plymouth, UCU has forced concessions from management. They can do the same at the UoG, but nationally coordinated UCU industrial action is vital in the fight to save the future of higher education.
UCU campaign: saveuog.com
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In The Socialist 27 January 2010:
Socialist Party election campaign
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party feature
Workplace Feature: IT workers in mini strike wave