The proposed cuts facing the University of Sussex in the academic year 2010/11 have been condemned by Brighton and Hove City Council, who have claimed that; ‘the proposed plans will have a negative impact on staff and students alike.’ The University has unfortunately not been immune from the recession, and faces cuts of up to £5 million for the academic year 2010/11.
Business secretary Lord Mandelson announced recently that there must be higher education funding cuts of £398m for 2010/11, but the Institute for Fiscal Studies has said that larger cuts will be required by 2011/12 if ministers are to achieve the target of halving national debt by 2013.
When the Prime Minister was recently asked if there was still money to spend on Labour priorities in spite of the deficit, he replied, ‘Of course there is’. However, whilst money has been used towards the police, primary and secondary schools and the health service, higher education has been neglected.
Brighton and Hove City Council have said regarding the cuts that; ‘In the longer term the cuts could reduce the critical role the university plays in supporting and helping to develop the city’s economy and prosperity. Reducing student support services is a particularly damaging option.’ The council have suggested alternatives to redundancies of staff, such as allowing part time work for staff instead of full redundancies, which allows the university to retain the skill from their staff for use in the departments, and reduces the amount of job loss.
The cuts to departments include 24 posts in Life sciences, 5 posts in English, 13 posts in Informatics, 3 in History, Art History and Philosophy and 62 posts in Professional support services, including 6 Student Advice posts. Other cuts proposed include closing Unisex which provides advice for students relating to sexual health, drugs and alcohol, and the potential closure of the campus crèche and nursery on the campus, which is used by over 20 students and 80 staff members.
The council have acknowledged the effect that the University of Sussex has on Brighton and Hove, saying how the University of Sussex staff and students play an ‘important role in contributing to the city’s culture, economy and vibrant atmosphere.’ The student community makes up approximately ten per cent of the population of Brighton and Hove and brings in around £250 million annually to the regional economy. The solution the council have undertaken is for the Chief Executive to write to Michael Farthing, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Sussex, and inform him of their concerns, asking whether he and his colleagues could reconsider the proposals. The council are also asking the University of Sussex to look for alternative solutions to the proposed cuts, but still with the equivalent savings.
Michael Farthing has said that the reductions in government funding are responsible for the proposed cuts at the university. However, many academics, staff, and students are annoyed that whilst these redundancies take place, several of the higher staff members continue to receive large wage packets, including Michael Farthing with a salary of £227,000 annually. In addition, the wage belt of the top 20 managers at the University exceeds £2.6m. There has also been the recent, expensive project to update the university’s buildings, costing the University a large sum of money.
David Lepper, Labour MP for Brighton Pavilion, said on the matter; ‘My particular concerns are about the loss of jobs proposed, the impact of the proposals on teaching and the continuing work of particular departments, the possible imbalance between proposed capital and other expenditure, and the future of important campus-based services such as childcare and health.’
Published 8th February 2010