Written by Gemma Sanderson
On October 13th, around 3,800 employees at the University of Leicester received an email in which the University’s Vice Chancellor, Nishan Canagarajah described now as the ‘perfect moment’ to “disinvest in certain areas of the University”, putting thousands of staff jobs on the line.
Made public by the University’s executive board, the new restructuring programme ‘Shaping for Excellence’ may lead to compulsory redundancies.2
These cuts will impact the Schools of Arts, Business, Informatics, Mathematics and Actuarial Science, and the Department of Neuroscience, Psychology and Behavior, as well as a number of professional services.
After speaking with fellow colleagues in affected departments, one lecturer responded:
“One thing it would be good acknowledge is the human cost of this: that the news was announced to us via email in the middle of Week 2, when we’d all been working flat out for months to get the blended teaching term started, and when we were all working in isolation, most of us at home.”
Professor Canagarajah issued a statement to Leicester student magazine (LSM) which contained the following:
“Now, more than ever, it’s vital to ensure that the University has a strong and sustainable future, and sometimes that means change needs to take place.”
“These proposed changes aim to ensure that we can provide an excellent education experience for all students – now and in the future – and improve our reputation and performance as a world leading university.”
“To achieve that we have to review what we do and potentially stop or change our work in some areas.”
He added: ‘As part of this process, it’s important to hear the views and ideas from the people in those Schools and Departments. We are doing this at the earliest stage in the process so that everyone has the opportunity to shape the plan and collectively review where we are and where we need to be.’
The Vice Chancellor also highlights that “The comment referring to it being a “perfect moment” relates to our ongoing work in reference to our new strategic plan for our second century, and not referring to the pandemic.”
The Leicester University and College (UCU) branch said they were given no prior notice2 to the announcement and in response to the Vice Chancellor’s statement, a UCU spokesperson told LSM the following:
“Leicester UCU agrees that now is the perfect time to ensure we have a safe and sustainable future, and to secure our future into our second century.
“However, we believe this should be achieved by supporting and investing in our staff, not by restructuring and potentially cutting jobs.”
They added: “Now more than ever workloads are high, staff are going above and beyond to deliver an exceptional education and experience for our students.”
“Therefore, it was unbelievable heart-breaking for many to receive the news that there is the potential for them to lose their jobs.”
Leicester UCU, who represent a group of staff including, but not limited to, lecturers, academics, researchers, professional service staff, librarians and more, vowed
‘While we are diverse, we stand together ready to defend the jobs of our colleagues and friends.’
Gemma Sanderson is currently studying for a Masters in Modern and Contemporary Literature at the University of Leicester. Originally from County Durham, you can find them on Instagram and Twitter here: @gemomus