By Grahame Anderson
Senior Management at the University of Bradford are undertaking informal face to face discussions following the announcement 200 full time staff are to be made redundant by December.
These devastating job cuts will affect administrative, professional and support staff, and will also include senior executives, with management blaming both a change in funding from Westminster and dwindling undergraduate applications.
The University claims there are no academics involved contrary to what internal sources believe, but the plan represents losing 10 per cent of employees at the university, at a time when student numbers have dropped below 10,000. A total of 35 departures have already been agreed leaving a further 165 losses to come over the next few months.
A spokesperson for the university told Asian Sunday: “These sessions are open to all staff members with Q&A’s forming part of the agenda. There will also be a formal consultation process in which feedback from staff will help shape the proposed changes to the University.”
Asian Sunday has learned the proposals released to staff in an email were the catalyst for a collective letter to Top-Tier Management, written by the University’s Sabbatical Team. They believe both panic management and a changing strategy were behind the decision.
In an extract they say: “The University recruitment strategy constantly changes. Recently in Senate we were told that the focus will be on increasing our international student market, yet we still continue to ignore the local market which has been the backbone for the University of Bradford for the last ten years. The new sabbatical team would be unable to attend this University under the current tariff requirement if they were applying today. We do not understand how the University ignore this market in the pursuit of quality, when we would urge increasing quality in the management decision-making and strategic thinking.
“The Students’ Union wants to be the University’s critical friend and partner, but we are finding this position difficult when we find out about major change through the media. We feel there is not enough consideration given to the student impact from such major decisions which have been made through programmes such as BEP.”
Other concerns include an upsurge in the number of students reporting basic administrative errors, a retention problem, lack of student surveys and a change in the approach of university governance sessions.
In a collective statement the group told us: “The letter speaks for itself, as it is open and honest. That is all we are prepared to say at this point as we are still waiting for an official response from the University’s Senior Management Team.”
Funding Sources A Problem
Vice Chancellor Professor Brian Cantor explained: “Student applicant numbers have declined and will continue to do so for the next few years. We have seen the removal of funding sources such as bursaries for nursing, and the government has removed inflation increases to the home student fee.
“All of this has contributed to a much tougher operating and recruitment environment.”
In a statement presented to Asian Sunday by the University, they say they have improved their academic and professional support quality substantially over the past few years. They will also continue to invest in academic developments and facilitate a major drive toward international recruitment.
They added: “The planned cost reductions will involve reducing the staff complement by approximately 200 FTE roles. The University is running a voluntary severance scheme and is also carrying a number of vacancies, which will account for some of this necessary reduction. Unfortunately, however, we still need to reduce our staff by around 165 FTE roles. Where possible we will endeavour to minimise the number of compulsory redundancies.
“We need to simplify and reshape our academic model and explore other opportunities that may enhance our teaching and research, generate income and increase efficiencies. Our aim is that by 2020/21 the University will have more overseas students, have a different, stronger and more effective academic shape and model, be leaner and have a well worked through offer as an organisation, with a smaller top management tier.
“We recognise that this period will be challenging for all concerned, but full support will be provided for all staff and students through this time of change.”
Local MP’s Response
Bradford South MP Judith Cummins said: “These potential job losses are a devastating blow for hard working staff. I am also very concerned about the impact this could have on the education of thousands of young people in Bradford and beyond.
“I have already met with the trade union Unison and will be making my views about this serious issue very clear to the Vice-Chancellor of the University.”
Shipley Conservative MP Philip Davies added: “I’m not entirely sure why they are blaming the government, if there’s one thing universities aren’t strapped for its cash.
“Obviously it’s a concern for the people affected and I hope every effort will be made to help them get a new job quickly, it will be a massive worry for them and that should be the priority.”
MP Naz Shah, whose constituency the University falls under was approached for comment but did not respond. MP for Bradford East Imran Hussain was also approached for comment but did not respond.
Since starting to cover this story Asian Sunday has learned students at the university have launched an online petition calling for a motion of no confidence against the Vice Chancellor, Professor Brian Cantor. In a statement released on Saturday the UBU made it known:
“Being a student at the University, under the leadership of the Vice Chancellor, we have witnessed the declining standards of education and the overall student experience. As a part of the student body, we feel that this is a direct result of the “vision” and “strategy” pushed out by the Vice Chancellor. The University does not engage with the local community to tackle the real issues, resulting in students feeling unsafe, vulnerable and like outsiders.”