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Up to 500 jobs at risk at University of Wolverhampton in cuts says union

Up to 500 jobs could be at risk at the University of Wolverhampton as it halts student recruitment for 138 courses.

The University of Wolverhampton's main Wolverhampton campus

A senior union negotiator said the cuts undermined Wolverhampton's promise to be the 'university of opportunity' as unions entered a formal dispute with management.

Interim vice chancellor Ian Campbell told lecturers at the university that there would be "no more than 500 staff redundancies" to combat its £20 million deficit - which would constitute around a fifth of the university's staff.

Now, the UK's largest academic union, the UCU, has announced that it has passed a motion to enter into a formal dispute with management at the University of Wolverhampton.

Dr Catherine Lamond, chair of the UCU negotiating committee at the university, said: "We've entered into a formal dispute with management because there has been no consultation with staff.

"Teachers could have made suggestions such as consolidating courses - staff have had plenty of very creative ideas and suggestions, but we've not been asked at all.

"Staff are appalled at the scale of the cuts and worried people applied for voluntary severance, not because they want to, but because they have to. There's a mutually agreed severance scheme but it's quite heavy-handed and we're worried about compulsory redundancies. Lots of people will go and what happens to those who are left?

"We had a new interim vice chancellor this year and he said that the accounts are terrible and that there is a £20 million deficit, but this is a complete change in the story. The accounts were published in July last year and they looked really healthy, so what's happened?

"He told us that we need to save all this money and that staff costs are huge. He said that there won't be more than 500 staff redundancies - out of 2,500 staff across the university. It's devastating.

"Other universities have announced redundancies but they've done this the proper way. We've had no consultation. The university says they don't need to consult because of the circumstances, but because of the change surely we need to?

"We had a meeting the day before it was announced to the schools but it wasn't really a consultation, as it wasn't in writing and it wasn't accurate - they said students would be made alternative offers for courses but a quarter of students are not being made an alternative offer.

"There's been no consultation and there's no timeline for a recovery plan. It just looks like we keep stumbling across bad news. It's slash, burn, decline - cutting courses and no plans to turn things around. It just seems like the first wave of cuts to recover income and see how much they can save.

"We think they carefully timed it to ensure that teaching had finished on a lot of courses and staff were busy marking, so campuses are a lot quieter now and there are less people to protest.

"It's really brutal and a shock to existing students, undermining their faith in the university.

"They're closing down the music education degree, when there are only three in the whole country. It's a real blow to culture in Walsall, especially as the Arts Council recently announced that it wants to invest in Walsall in particular. We've had teachers who wanted to send their students here and say we're really letting them down.

"We also have a good record for additional needs, but for those who had applied for this year, it's too late for them to organise something else for September, so they just won't go to university.

"This is meant to be the university of opportunity, but they're removing the opportunities."

Labour Councillor Chris Burden for Fallings Park, Wolverhampton Council’s cabinet member for Education, Skills and Work, added: “This is really difficult news to hear. The cuts will fall primarily on the arts, which as we learnt during the pandemic, were the very things which kept us happy.

“I myself had a wonderful year of university at Wolverhampton, as I know many other people did. The loss of these courses is a great loss for the city.”

A University of Wolverhampton spokesman said: “The university continues to work with our recognised unions as we progress through our recovery plan. Our focus remains on supporting our applicants and ensuring we provide the best possible experience for our students.”