University to slash quarter of jobs due to drop in student numbers

A London university has come under fire over its plans to cut up to a quarter of teaching staff following a drop in student numbers.

The proposals at Birkbeck, University of London, could also see it slash its administrative workforce in half, a union said.

Around 140 jobs in total were threatened by the plans, according to the University and College Union (UCU).

It said the cuts would be a “disaster” for the London evening university and threatened industrial action if they were to go ahead.

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Birkbeck emailed staff last month to announce the plans to cut its workforce, according to UCU.

The university said it planned to let 84 academic and 56 administrative staff members go by next summer.

This included nearly a dozen staff in its English, theatre and creative writing department, up to 10 in geography and up to seven in politics, according to the UCU.

Birkbeck claimed it needed to make cuts to fill a multi-million-pound deficit from a drop in student numbers.

But the UCU branch president urged the university to focus on efforts to attract students rather than slash jobs.

“Birkbeck has a proud history of reaching students who otherwise would not enter higher education. Sacking 140 staff, including up to one in four teaching staff, threatens to trash that history,” Mike Berlin said.

”The cuts would severely harm student learning and jeopardise the university’s commitment to social mobility and lifelong learning.

“We urge management to rethink its knee-jerk job cuts and instead work with us to look at how we can attract more students.”

The UCU Birkbeck branch president said the union would have “no option other than to begin taking steps for an industrial ballot” if the university planned to proceed.

Tens of thousands of university staff across the country voted in favour of strike action in a row over pay, conditions and pensions last month.

The UCU called on vice chancellors to enter negotiations to avoid disruption after the vote.

Birkbeck, University of London has been approached for comment over the planned job cuts.

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