Written by Rhiannon Jenkins
Staff at the University of Leicester have been informed that a formal redundancy consultation has begun on the new term’s first day of teaching. 145 members of staff are at risk of losing their jobs as university admits a weakened financial position.
It follows months of a pre-change engagement period, begun in October 2020, wherein 342 staff members were consulted about the plans. Vice Chancellor Nishan Canagarajah stated that “as we are creating our strategic plan for the next 10 years, it has become apparent that we need to focus our efforts and build on our core strengths.”
Officer for the Leicester branch of UCU, and Associate Professor at the university, David Harvie, stated “we would contest the whole rationale of their shaping for excellence programme. We don’t think redundancies are necessary at all.”
The branch presented the Executive Board with a report outlining a dozen alternative proposals to disinvestment, but they were dismissed as unrealistic.
Harvie highlighted a conflict in the university’s messaging: “they’ve said that the university is in breach of covenants with some of its lenders, but we’ve also been told that this is a decision about the long term future of the university, so they’re simply not being consistent in their messaging.”
The university responded to this by stating “Our finances are not as strong as we would like but there is no underlying financial crisis. However, like all universities we need to ensure we are financially stable and have long term financial resilience.
“We have short-term loan facilities in place but we must build our financial strength to ensure that we can refinance the short-term debt in the coming 12-18 months and continue to meet the terms of our long-term loans. This means that we need to take some steps now to put our finances in a stronger position and to start delivering the strategic changes we see as necessary across the University.”
Consultancy meetings with affected staff will begin in the week commencing 25th January and continue for 90 days. UCU representatives will be present at each of the meetings to ensure they are informed of the process.
Staff from five schools are at risk, with the university anticipating a possible net reduction of approximately 60 posts. The affected Schools are: School of Arts, School of Business, School of Informatics, School of Mathematics and Actuarial Science, Department of Neuroscience, Psychology and Behaviour. Staff from student services – including the library user services and estates and digital services division – are also at risk.
One member of staff stated: “The university announced the next stage in its redundancies three hours into the new semester’s teaching – an egregiously callous piece of timing. […] Staff have been working tremendously hard this year, and this decision doesn’t seem to be pedagogically informed at all.”
Rhiannon Jenkins is a final year English student passionate about activism, film & literature and travel. She also acts as Arts & Culture Chief Editor. You can find her on twitter here: @jenksrhiannon