We wanted to give a union perspective on the recent HEFCE grant allocation and the challenges facing HE staff at the moment.
First, although there is no reason to panic, there is cause for concern. The cut to Goldsmiths of 1.7% (3.5% in real terms) is, to quote Hugh Jones, “roughly what we expected”. It is worse than some places, better than others. The main point is that it does not justify the imposition of any cuts that harm the quality of education we provide to students and therefore undermine the reputation of the College. This will lead to a spiral of decline which benefits no one. We cannot be complacent about the financial situation and we don’t know exactly what will be announced in the forthcoming Budget or any post-Election Budget. But our priority needs to be to protect jobs and conditions as well as high-quality education and research.
Second, we know that many staff are discussing ways of dealing with the 2.5% cuts demanded by management. There have been staff meetings in many Departments and UCU meetings in some. What seems to be clear is that there is very little left to cut, that many members of staff are unwilling to sanction any further cuts and that, already, many of us have experienced cuts in terms of posts NOT being filled and voluntary unpaid leave not being fed back into the Department. ‘Vacancy savings’ together with the proposed 2.5% cuts means that those of us who are left are likely to be working harder, that staff/student ratios will increase and that stress levels are certain to rise.
What should our reaction be? We should refute the notion that ‘realpolitik’ means that we need to accept uncritically course closures, fewer VTs, flexible working arrangements, early retirement or ‘voluntary’ severance. We can take inspiration from the victory at Leeds, from the huge meetings and strike at Sussex, from the resistance to cuts at Kings and UCL, from the growing number of student occupations against the cuts (at Westminster, Sussex and Aberdeen) and from the vibrant march of staff and students to Downing Street on Saturday. We should also call on our new Warden to lobby UCEA to negotiate meaningfully on the entirety of our pay claim for 2010/11 and, in particular, to recognise UCU’s right to negotiate safeguards on jobs at the national level.
Please call a meeting in your Department to discuss the proposed cuts so that we can start to develop a strategic response.
We will be holding an open meeting with the Students Union to discuss HE cuts early in the Summer term and have called an organising meeting for 1pm this Thursday, 25 March in the Stephen Lawrence room of the SU. You are most welcome.
22 March 2010