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Cutbacks imperil jobs across UK

Multimillion-pound budget cuts could see whole departments wiped out, writes Melanie Newman

Jobs are to go in cuts at universities in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

At Queen's University Belfast, plans are being considered to slash costs by at least £10 million over four years.

The savings, outlined in Queen's academic plan for 2009, were due to be discussed by its senate as Times Higher Education went to press, and are likely to see at least 100 academic jobs go through early retirement or voluntary severance.

The plans include axeing its German department, the Semiconductor and Nanotechnology Research Cluster, the Belfast e-Science Centre and a module in Welsh.

Cuts are also proposed to the schools of geography, archaeology and palaeoecology, mathematics and physics, and politics, international studies and philosophy.

Meanwhile, staff at the University of Stirling have been informed about a voluntary severance scheme launched as part of a £4 million cost-cutting drive.

However, compulsory redundancies have not been ruled out, and the University and College Union has accused Stirling of failing to fulfil its legal duty to consult staff. It has appealed to the institution's top decision-making body, the Court, to avoid redundancies.

David Bleiman, the UCU's Scottish official, said Stirling's Strategy and Resources Committee had indicated in mid-February that redundancies were being "seriously considered".

"It is therefore astonishing that even now, four months later, the university has failed to commence legally required consultations to avoid such redundancies," he said. "We're very concerned that members report being called into meetings to discuss voluntary severance."

A spokesman for Stirling said the university's aim was to avoid compulsory redundancies if possible.

Elsewhere in Scotland, the University of Glasgow is conducting a review of its sociology provision, which staff fear will lead to further cutbacks.

A Glasgow spokesman said the review aimed to "identify areas of strength ... to allow the university to best identify how to co-ordinate our work in this field".

Finally, Oxford Brookes University is looking to cut up to ten posts in its School of Technology in a bid to save £500,000 a year. It partly attributed the cuts to a decline in recruitment to postgraduate taught programmes, and also to "an imbalance in staffing across the different areas in the school".

melanie.newman@tsleducation.com


... BUT SWANSEA BUCKS THE TREND

The recession may be causing gloom and doom in many parts of the sector, but one Welsh institution is pressing ahead with plans that could create thousands of new jobs.

Swansea University's council has approved plans to accelerate work on its new science and innovation campus, a joint project with oil giant BP and three local and national authorities.

Swansea's council has agreed on the submission of an outline planning application. A decision about whether to proceed will be made later this year.

The plans involve relocating some activities from the Singleton Park campus to the new base, and could generate up to 11,000 new jobs.

Richard Davies, Swansea's vice-chancellor, said the campus was "expected to be the largest knowledge-economy project in the UK".

"By removing the boundaries between industry and academia, we are proposing radical new approaches to the provision of research and development, education and skills to help drive economic regeneration for the benefit of the whole southwest Wales region," he said.

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