On 14th November, the Vice-Chancellor announced a ten-year plan of “restructuring” for the future of Southampton University, merging eight university departments into five. This is claimed to be a move to improve the uni’s standing in the league tables. This in practice just amounts to smudging numbers and statistics around to make it look like things are better than they are, whilst not actually solving any of the problems at the university. The university itself has been falling in rankings since the appointment of the current Vice-Chancellor.
This wasn’t the main reason why people where shocked. In this change, The V-C also planned to make cuts to staff wages, wanting to save £20 million in the long run. His plans mean that up to 75 lecturers and staff are at risk of losing their jobs. He is targeting 6 departments in particular: Law, Tribology (engineering), Music, English, Chemistry and Social Sciences, as well as other individual staff members. Up to 27% of staff from the English department will have to leave in order to reach the savings target imposed by the Vice-Chancellor. Voluntary severance will be available to staff who would like it in these departments, but this decision must be made by them before December 19th! This gives staff just over one month to make the decision about whether to leave or not – right before the Christmas break. The Southampton branch of the University and College Union (UCU), which represents staff interests, have rightly called this a rushed decision. Many students have expressed anxiety that the decision will affect their education if fewer staff members have to cover the material of the already pressured lecturers. This is all made worse by the fact that almost no information has been given to students about what is going on. Many students who take the subjects most affected are unaware of the changes taking place.
The Vice-Chancellor is one of the most highly paid in the UK – his salary is £352,000, which is an increase of 55% compared to 6 years ago. In a scandalous act it was revealed that the University is now looking for a chauffeur, so whilst he’s cutting academic staff, the V-C seems to have no problem improving his own comfort and that of higher management! According to his speech £300 million was raised by the university to fund infrastructure projects. Could none of this money have been spared for staff? An improvement to infrastructure is definitely needed, but it will be interesting to see if the money is spent on showing off the university on open days or on actual improvements to student learning such as having more space for computers in the library.
Last year the accommodation cleaning staff were attacked with wage cuts, this year its the turn of the academic staff. This isn’t simply caused by the ideology of the Vice-Chancellor. In this period of capitalist crisis, with little economic investment, his job is that of any other manager – to administer the cuts needed to balance the books. In return he gets his prestige and monetary rewards. This is how capitalism in crisis works. The fight against staff cuts must be linked up with the political fight for a system in which cuts to education aren’t made to save a privileged few’s profits. Education should be run by the people who know what’s it like on the ground, being students and staff, not by distant upper management.
Not a single cut to staff wages!
Not a single cut to the university budget!
Staff and students should run the university – kick out vice-chancellors and their six-figure salaries!
For a massive investment in education – make it free for all!
End education for profit – run education and the economy in the interests of society’s needs!
by Southampton Marxists