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University of Sussex: Save chemistry - sack the vice-chancellor!
THE VICE-chancellor of the University of Sussex, Alasdair Smith, announced last week that he intended to close the chemistry department, giving as his reasons the university's £4 million debt and that not enough people were applying to study chemistry.
Richard Mullin, University of Sussex Socialist Students
However, the chemistry department generates about half of the university's income from intellectual property rights so Smith appears to be killing a goose that lays golden eggs.
Furious lecturers also point out that the annual cost of the chemistry department - around £630,000 - is about the same as the cost of the 'vice-chancellor's office', a mysterious administrative department whose activities involve a 'branding team' and responsibility for 'corporate strategy'. The big cheese's own salary takes around a quarter of this amount.
The real reason Smith wants to close down chemistry is because the students receive between 20 and 25 hours' teaching a week, whereas many non-science students receive as little as two or three.
There have been two demonstrations, the latest outside the university senate, where the students' union president demanded Smith's resignation. Representatives of Sussex AUT branch also condemned the planned closure and cited support from three local MPs, the national media and figures in the academic community.
As a result, the cuts were put on hold but if the vice-chancellor subsequently presses ahead with the proposed closure the unions must organise strike action to defend jobs. Socialist Students have been pushing for a similarly militant approach among students. Some of our activists also distributed leaflets at an open day event to prospective students explaining the crisis at Sussex and countering the official university prospectus' glossy lies.
The student union is also mandated to call a student strike in response to the university's mismanagement. Next term we will press for this policy to be carried out.
In The Socialist 30 March 2006:
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