Sussex University’s budget for 2009/10 seeks to reduce costs by £3m, with additional savings of up to £5m in 2010/11. These cuts will take the form of (among others), 115+ staff redundancies, the closure of the creche and the closure of the sexual health advice centre.
University management calls Police on its own students following announcement of over 100 redundancies
Following proposals for over 100 redundancies across Sussex campus, over 500 students and staff held a demonstration on thursday morning. After a rally of speeches, demonstrators entered the building where University management was holding a meeting to discuss these proposals. Students and staff lined the corridors of the building, demanding that the university be held accountable for its proposed cuts to academics and staff across the board. Since the cuts were announced last week, there has been a growing resistance amongst the campus community. This has included the local UCU branch voting unanimously to reject the proposals, which include compulsory redundancies for some members of staff. The proposals also include cuts to advice and student support services, nursery and crèche facilities, support staff, and the discontinuing of all Modern Language degrees.
Half an hour after the demonstrators entered the building, Michael Farthing (Vice Chancellor of Sussex University) called the Police, who arrived to break up the peaceful demonstration. The protestors left of their own volition, and continued the rally outside.
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The Stop the Cuts campaign formed in response to plans by the university administration to cut back on spending by millions in the next few years. The university is planning to cut £3 million this academic year, and £5 million next year.
The costs of these cuts will be passed on to schools through restructuring and course closures, and to staff and students in the shape of job losses, pensions cuts and fee increases. However at the same time as proposing these cuts, the university administration is planning to spend £112 million on new buildings and refurbishments on campus, as well as raising the salaries of the top 14 managers to a combined £2.1 million per year.
If they take place, the cuts proposed by the administration could fundamentally change the university as an environment for learning, teaching and working. For students and academic staff, the cuts will undermine the university as a place that recognizes the inherent value of academic knowledge and research. As the costs of the spending cuts are passed on to schools, the way in which academic work and research is evaluated will be changed to orient schools towards areas that produce the most income for the university. Research will only be encouraged if it is business driven or funded by external bodies,. Education at Sussex will be subordinated to the interests of business.
This will not only mean that courses will be simplified as research is steered in more lucrative directions, but will also put areas that don’t provide enough income at risk of cuts, dramatic restructuring and closures. Engineering and Design, Life Sciences, and Informatics have already been identified as schools that, as they are failing to make money, are under immediate threat.
For academic staff at Sussex these changes mean they will be put in to competition with their colleagues to try and defend their area of research. Individual academics will be at risk of losing their jobs if their research does not attract income. Both academic staff and other employees of the university are being threatened with job losses and pension cuts.
The Stop the Cuts campaign demands that the university administration makes no compulsory redundancies and resists student fees and cuts in higher education spending. It argues for the reining in of executive pay, the postponement of new building projects, and the protection of academic freedom.