Up to 250 jobs could be lost at a UK university after sweeping changes to its arts and humanities courses were announced.
The University of Wolverhampton has confirmed that 150 positions are at risk of redundancy and a further 100 staff will leave under a ‘mutually agreed resignation plan’.
The institution has mothballed around 140 courses in the performing arts, fashion, social sciences, interior design and fine arts, making it one of many modern institutions to drastically reduce its offerings. this summer.
However, the scale of the job losses far exceeds what was expected at the institution – the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) previously said around 20 jobs were considered at risk.
Wolverhampton’s UCU branch said on Twitter that Acting Vice-Chancellor Ian Campbell – who only took office in January – had told affected staff members that the move was necessary to ensure the “right size and the good shape of our organization”.
Former UCU President Vicky Blake criticized Professor Campbell’s delivery of the announcement, tweeting: “13 minutes to announce the devastation, via Teams, no questions. This is not what leadership looks like.
Wolverhampton had been threatened with a strike if management went ahead with their plans, and the UCU accused the institution’s leaders of “hiding in a bunker” instead of meeting its representatives.
Concerns have been raised over the provision of humanities courses in post-92 institutions, with critics saying the government’s emphasis on ‘student outcomes’ is forcing universities to reassess their options, including potentially to drop subjects that have not traditionally led to high salaries for graduates.
A Wolverhampton spokesperson said employees affected by the proposal would “now enter a period of consultation in partnership with the university and the relevant unions”, adding that the university was “committed to treating all staff with dignity and respect throughout this difficult time.” .
The spokesperson said the university’s new management team has been “transparent and open with staff, students and unions around the challenges it currently faces” and blamed the challenges of the Covid pandemic -19 and rising inflation to dramatically increase the institution’s costs.
“At the same time, as at many similar modern universities, student enrollment – and associated tuition revenue – has declined,” the spokesperson said.
“This difficult financial landscape is having a significant impact on the university’s ability to reduce its current financial deficit of £20 million – an issue that must be addressed to ensure the university’s future financial sustainability.”