Lecturers balloted to oppose uni arts cuts

15/2/2012 (NEWS)''The University of Portsmouth Eldon Building in Winston Churchill Avenue, Portsmouth.''Picture: Sarah Standing (120539-7108)
15/2/2012 (NEWS)''The University of Portsmouth Eldon Building in Winston Churchill Avenue, Portsmouth.''Picture: Sarah Standing (120539-7108)

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HUNDREDS of teaching staff at the University of Portsmouth are being balloted to oppose major cuts to the arts department, The News can reveal.

The University and College Union (UCU) is asking its 500 members to fight the decision to close traditional workshops in small metals, glass and ceramics and to axe 3D art and access courses.

These cuts – which the union calls ‘acts of craven vandalism’ – have led to 16 staff redundancies at the school of art, media and design (ADM) this year.

UCU claims the university has not conducted ‘meaningful consultation’, after uncovering a confidential document showing plans to close the workshops and the fine arts access course were on the cards in December 2009 – almost two years before the union was warned.

A university source said: ‘We’re calling for a vote of no confidence – the way these cuts have been handled is disgraceful.

‘We’re not just talking about a handful of disgruntled members. Our union represents half the university’s lecturers and researchers and there is an overwhelming sense of anger and injustice.

‘Staff across all departments are also very anxious. They’re looking at what’s happened to the arts and thinking “I could be next”.

‘We now have proof the whole consultation was a sham and we will not let the university get away with it.’

Another motion on the ballot sheet highlights the university’s £17.2m surplus – which UCU members say puts a hole in the university’s defence that cuts are needed to make staff savings of £500,000. It suggests the redundancy of one of its members has amounted to victimisation because of their trade union role and for raising concerns about discrimination in ADM.

Our source said: ‘The tragedy behind all of this is that we are going to have a city with no central cultural point.

‘They got rid of the traditional workshops and our traditional fine arts course and expert staff in their field.

‘It feels very vindictive and short sighted.’

The News understands staff directly affected by the cuts are seeking further legal advice.

UNIVERSITY leaders say they regularly review courses according to trends in what students want to study – and say the closures of courses at the School of Art Design and Media are justified.

In a statement, the university said: ‘The need to restructure the School of Art Design and Media and to close some of its courses followed a comprehensive review.

‘The review began in 2009 and included open dialogue with, and feedback from, its entire staff and with the full knowledge and participation of UCU. In September and October 2011 a full consultation about the restructure was undertaken with students, staff, UCU and Unison. Subsequent decisions were made to ensure the future success of the department as a whole.

‘The University’s finances are in a healthy position owing to continuing excellent student recruitment, strong financial controls and cautious spending plans. The University’s latest financial summary is in the public domain and openly accessible online.

‘Our future as a university and as a business is sustainable only if we keep our courses up to date, so that we are in a strong financial position.’