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Crisis talks at the University of Leeds

January 4, 2010

The University of Leeds UCU will meet the university tomorrow (Tuesday 5 January) through the arbitration service ACAS to seek a resolution to the current row over job cuts.

UCU will begin balloting its members at Leeds for industrial action in defence of jobs on Monday 11 January if the row is not resolved. The union is campaigning against compulsory redundancies and cuts of 10% piled on top of a series of reviews which have already seen over 54 jobs lost.

The union says the cuts have already inflicted serious damage on the university and warned that further cuts will lead to higher student:staff ratios and further increase staff workloads. The union has accused the university of bad faith after it insisted that FBS professors applied for their own jobs over the Christmas break, despite previously agreeing to discuss the job cuts with ACAS. Leeds UCU today said it was determined to protect the quality of the education provided at Leeds and will campaign to save jobs and fight cuts planned across higher education.

Nationally, the government is cutting £135 million from the budget in the next academic year, in addition to cuts this year of £51 million in teaching grants, £84 million in capital and £180 million in ‘efficiency’ savings, which together with other cuts amounts to a total cut of £518 million, or 7 % of spending.

The union said Lord Mandelson’s announcement of the cuts on 22 December (PDF here) exposed the government’s lack of understanding of how to ensure higher education can flourish. UCU maintains that cuts without consequences do not exist. The UK already invests a lower percentage of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in its higher education system than nearly every industrialised economy in the world. (UCU’s original response to the 22 December announcement here.)

The union said that although Britain punches above its weight when it comes to higher education, attracting students from all over the world and making a huge contribution to the UK economy and world culture, it would not be able to continue to do so if the cuts were implemented.

UCU Leeds spokesperson Malcolm Povey, said: “The University of Leeds likes to see itself as a pioneer both in Yorkshire and in the country but we don’t intend to pioneer cuts, this was our vice-chancellor’s mistake. Staff have no desire to be hit by the savage cuts planned for higher education. Today’s talks are absolutely vital if the university is to avoid strike action this year.

“Lord Mandelson’s sneaky announcement, when universities were on the Christmas break, exposed the government’s complete lack of understanding of how higher education works and what it needs. The cuts threaten to turn our universities into ‘unifactories’, which will not be the choice of international students, who will seek better options in our competitor countries. The unelected minister for everything risks adding the destruction of UK higher education to his list of ‘achievements’.”

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