V-c’s ‘dismissive’ attitude to support staff provokes union ire

The vice-chancellor of the University of Northampton has been accused of “dismissing” the work of administrative and support staff after redundancy plans were announced.

Northampton has informed unions of plans to cut 78 jobs in professional services.

Nick Petford, the university’s vice-chancellor, was quoted in the Northampton Chronicle & Echo as saying: “We currently spend more money on support staff than we do on the teaching and learning side so that is an imbalance that needs to be corrected.

“Students don’t come to the university for the support staff but to be taught by leading academics.

“To put more money into the teaching side we need to reduce the head count of the support staff.”

Jon Richards, acting national secretary for education at Unison, said: “If you cut support staff jobs then better-paid academics will end up doing their work, negating savings in the long term.

“Yes, students go to university to learn, but they also need to eat, access information, have support when they have a problem and learn in a decent environment – all services provided by support staff that this vice-chancellor easily dismisses.

“Presumably his long-term aim is that his expenses will be checked by a professor of maths and senior lecturers in engineering will be dispatched to look after the boilers?”

Professor Petford told the newspaper that the 30-day consultation on the redundancies was taking place in the summer to minimise disruption to students.

The university plans to cut 22 jobs in information services, 12 in research and knowledge transfer, 10 in marketing and 10 in student administration services, according to the newspaper.

A university spokeswoman said: “This is a particularly challenging time for higher education with the introduction of higher fees from 2012 resulting in unparalleled levels of competition for students. A key outcome of the review will be to increase our investment in the student experience from 2012 onwards.”

She added: “We and the unions are supporting staff throughout this consultation period.”

john.morgan@tsleducation.com

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