University of Brighton students abandon studies to strike over staff redundancies

  • ITV News Meridian's Charlotte Wilkins spoke to students at the protest

Students at the University of Brighton have abandoned their studies to protest against proposals to make more than 100 staff redundant.

Unions fear that around 110 people will lose their jobs as the university attempts to make savings of almost £18 million.

The university says it needs to make the cuts as it faces rising costs and falling income. 

Many students are worried that if the job cuts go ahead, it will have a huge affect on their studies.

Joshua Boyle, President of Socialist Students Society said: "Nobody's denying that the university isn't under severe financial stresses, but if you remove courses, if you remove staffing from those courses, it not only has an impact on the student experience which is what their trying to maintain, but also it has a knock-on effect on the local communities."

A petition campaigning for no redundancies at the institute has reached more than 3,000 signatures.

Many students are worried that if the job cuts go ahead, it will have a huge affect on their studies. Credit: ITV News Meridian

Staff are concerned that those who stay at the university will have their workloads increased and will no longer be able to support students with additional needs.

Patricia McManus, a senior lecturer at the university, said: "We’re beautifully designed to take care of these students.

"These are our students, and what the senior management is proposing to do is dilute the resource base in a way that will make taking care of those students not difficult, it’ll make it impossible."

Unions claim that £50 million has been spent by the university on building projects in the last two years.

University and College Union (UCU) Chair Mark Abel said: "Staff morale was already low before this announcement, with little evidence of faith in the senior leadership.

"A staff survey in 2018 found that 78% of staff disagreed with the statement 'I see evidence of effective leadership from the University's leaders'.

"Things have not improved since then. As staff, we have had enough. We have already voted to take strike action in two national industrial action ballots this year.

"We have shown consistently that we will fight to defend jobs and conditions and to protect the quality of education at this university.

"We will do everything in our power as a union to defend our members and this University from this attack from above." 

Staff are concerned that those who stay at the university will have their workloads increased. Credit: ITV News Meridian

Union members are now planning to hold a ballot on industrial action, which would likely take place during the next academic year.

In a statement, the University of Brighton said: "As a provider of high-quality, skills-based education, there are significant opportunities for us to continue to strengthen our position as we look to the future.

"The proposals for change we have shared with our staff will help us to do that.

"Like other universities and businesses across all sectors, the backdrop to these changes has a significant financial dimension.

"The decade-long freeze in undergraduate tuition fees has reduced their value in real terms by around a third, while the increase in our costs as a result of generationally high levels of inflation has created further pressure.

"By addressing the immediate financial challenge we face, we can make the most of the opportunities available to us and continue to ensure our future sustainability and success.

"It is likely that at the end of this period, subject to the outcome of the consultation, approximately 110 colleagues will leave the university.

"We are hopeful that we can achieve the necessary changes in staff numbers through voluntary means, with compulsory redundancies only as a last resort.

"We recognise that this is a very difficult and concerning time for our staff and we will be doing all we can to support those colleagues impacted by these proposals."