London Metropolitan University has historically had one of the most diverse student populations in the UK, in terms of class and ethnic background. It has been the target for some of the most savage cuts in higher education. Despite a management re-shuffle in 2009/2010, the cuts are continuing.
Claire Locke, president of London Met Students Union, spoke to Solidarity:
“We’ve had 226 redundancies announced, mainly of academic workers. That’s particularly shocking given that the university has over-recruited this term and most services are over-subscribed, so it’s impossible for management to financially justify those cuts.
“Foundation year students promised direct entry to courses beginning in February are now being denied access.
“The university also wants to outsource a lot of services to a separate company through something called the Shared Services Initiative. This would be owned by London Met but not structurally part of the university, which means that other companies could buy in.
They’re looking for a 50% reduction in staffing costs of five years for the delivery of existing services which would be outsourced. That has terrible implications; staff would be sacked, or transferred onto inferior contracts once TUPE protection expired.
“Bursaries have also been abolished, and replaced with fee waivers. The Students Union is opposed to this change, as it only benefits students paying their fees upfront. And, as it’s means-tested to only apply to the very poorest (and therefore the people least likely to be able to pay their fees upfront anyway), the number of students it actually helps is very small.
“Campus trade unions are in consultation about the cut, and the SU wants to be involved in that consultation too. There are a whole variety of concerns, including various potential conflicts of interest of members of university management within the outsourcing proposals. We feel like we’re being attacked on all fronts.”
A January meeting of Unison members at London Met, which unanimously passed policy opposing the cuts, and asserts industrial action will almost certainly be necessary to defeat the cuts.
Unison chair Max Watson said: “Any goodwill towards the new management who came in two years ago has virtually disappeared.”