School of Pharmacy to merge with UCL

A controversial merger between two University of London colleges is to take place after the governing body of the School of Pharmacy approved a plan to become part of University College London from the beginning of 2012.

The school, which has a history stretching back to 1842, will merge with its much larger neighbour after “a long and thorough consultation and development process”, according to a statement from the institution.

Anthony Smith, dean of the school, said he was delighted that the council - which was split 12 votes to eight - had reached the decision “in an era when higher education is facing the most severe challenges we have ever known in the UK”.

“As part of UCL, the school will be able to invest in and develop its research, provide the best possible teaching and wider experience for students, and become a part of one of the world’s most prestigious institutions,” he said.

The chair of the school’s governing council, Liberal Democrat peer Lord Clement-Jones, said: “We are delighted to have reached a carefully reasoned and researched decision about our future, in which all those involved have been consulted at every stage.”

The decision comes despite past opposition from a number of academics, who have run a campaign against the plans for many months.

A survey of 97 members of staff – just under half of those working at the institution - carried out by the Saving Our School campaign last year showed that 85 per cent of those who voted were against the proposal.

A council consultation of 124 staff members also found a small majority (52 per cent) in favour of independence with 37 per cent preferring merger.

Ijeoma Uchegbu, professor of pharmaceutical nanoscience and branch secretary for the University and College Union, said the decision was “puzzling” given the available evidence that there was no “financial driver” for such a merger.

“The uncertain higher education funding environment has led university managers to lose confidence in their institutions' ability to thrive,” she said.

“Staff and stakeholders were not convinced by management's assertion that a merger with UCL would automatically result in the School of Pharmacy achieving an elevated status. Concerns about the school having to support less popular courses and of the school losing its identity persist.”  

simon.baker@tsleducation.com

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