Hundreds of students and staff at Sussex are furious at the final decision by university management, made at the council meeting on Friday 26 March, to cut £5 million in the next academic year and to scrap over 100 jobs.
The announcement comes as most students are away from campus for the Easter holidays. According to one student who has recently been protesting against the cuts, this was potentially done in order to “control the opposition from students who have previously protested against management’s finance proposals”.
The university council meeting reviewed proposals to reduce the number of teaching posts in “unpopular” subjects such as environmental sciences, including security, crèche and student support staff.
The original proposal put forward in November 2009 was to cut 115 jobs, which, in the modified Proposal for Change, has been reduced to 107. There will still be 20 new posts created at the university. The Proposal was modified due to consultation with unions and affected staff. Over the past few months campus has been rife with demonstrations by the Stop the Cuts campaign group, although Deputy Vice-Chancellor Paul Layzell claimed that such action would not in any way affect council’s decision.
Layzell added “nothing has changed” after the recent strike action by Sussex University and College Union members held on Thursday 18 March. “The consultation process is the way in which the University’s Proposal for Change may be influenced – not a ballot for, or indeed any taking of industrial action.”
The fact that so many jobs are still in jeopardy will not sit well with the UCU which described its last meeting with Layzell as the “most positive yet”.
After Friday’s council meeting, Vice-Chancellor Michael Farthing said: “Council endorsed the approach taken by the University to achieve the financial targets set in summer 2009 to address our deficit. This approach is in line with the strategic direction set by Council to continue to invest in potential growth, and to reduce spending in targeted areas.
“They also endorsed the view from Senate – the University’s main academic body – that we have a pressing need to make the savings we have identified and to move ahead on the timetable that we have set out.
“This is what we will now focus on. All schools and units at Sussex now have that certainty of clear decisions made by Council, so together we can plan effectively for the academic year ahead.”
A spokesperson for the university has stated they are now hoping to work with trade unions and staff to identify people willing to take voluntary redundancy as this would be favourable to compulsory layoffs.
A redundancy committee has also been created and is expected to convene in the second week of June.