An open letter from Sussex School of English Students
We, the students of the School of English, wholeheartedly oppose the University Management’s proposals to make sweeping redundancies across campus – this includes academic staff, but also library and IT staff, lab technicians, caterers, porters and those involved in Student Support Services.
We express our solidarity with those whose jobs are under threat and all those fighting cuts to services across the public sector.
The University Management’s proposals are short-sighted; we believe there is opportunity for ‘sustainable development’ in the School of English and that management has not considered all alternatives before resorting to the threat of redundancies.
These proposals threaten the integrity and reputation of the School, which until now has had a long-standing commitment to high-level research in the areas of psychoanalysis, comparative literature, modern philosophy, critical theory, and European studies. The proposed cuts, and changes in “focus” for the department, would add to the increasing marginalisation of the humanities on a national scale, but also pose a particular threat to the reputation of Sussex University, an institution famous for its excellence in the arts and humanities.
Sussex’s strong reputation for interdisciplinarity is what gives English at Sussex its identity, what attracted many of us to study here, and what continues to make our course stand out from others during the application process. The dismissal of all experts in European Literature threatens this.
We have the following list of demands and statements specifically with regard to the School of English:
– We demand that the University Senior Management acknowledge the wide scale student opposition within the School of English to the proposed redundancies in their public statements and publicity.
– We demand that further research be done into the alternatives that exist for ‘sustainable development’ within the School of English, and expect complete transparency regarding the research already carried out.
– Redundancies should be a last, not a first, resort.
– We recognise that management’s formula: ‘fewer staff, more students’ will be detrimental to the quality of teaching that staff are able to provide. In addition to the proposed five staff redundancies, we note a further three positions will not be renewed. This will increase the student to staff ratio and reduce tutors’ capacity to teach at a high standard. Forcing teaching staff to take on heavier workloads and admin. work must erode the quality of education available in the School of English.
– We demand to know how these cuts will affect the future provision of specialist courses taught by specialist tutors; we demand greater access to information regarding the effects the cuts will have on the School and its courses, and greater transparency in the plans for the future development of the School.
– ‘Student experience’ is about more than questionnaires and computer surveys; education should not be left at the mercy of market forces or be turned into an instrument of business. We are against Schools being run on business models that stand for self-accreditation, job-suitable degrees, and business approved research.
– We absolutely oppose the exploitation of international students as a source of revenue, and oppose the university management’s plans to limit the support services available for their studies.
– We strongly condemn the lack of discourse and consultation by the university with the academics of the school before formulating the proposals. Such decisions should come from within, not from the top down.
– We demand that the University Senior Management team should work to regain the trust of the students by expressing their personal opposition to government policy on higher education, and to embody the principles of the wider community at Sussex by taking an immediate pay cut.
As a first step, we propose:
– Unequivocally supporting any calls for strike action, should the UCU deem it necessary to take such action.
– Contacting press, alumni, local MPs, and prospective students, here and overseas, to expose the management’s policy as lacking integrity, foresight, and compassion.
– Doing whatever we can to protect the staff and standards of education threatened by these proposals.
Sussex School of English Students Against the Cuts, December 2009.