UCU action to begin against Goldsmiths plan to bulldoze through brutal cuts

Goldsmiths UCU members striking against cuts to courses and pay – they have voted to strike again to defend jobs

GOLDSMITHS University UCU (University and College Union) members, who have overwhelmingly voted to strike against the sacking of more than one-in-six academic staff at the institution, begin a marking boycott on Friday 19 April.

The boycott will cover all marking and assessment, including in writing, online, or verbally.
It will also include any assessment-related work such as exam invigilation and the administrative processing of marks.
UCU warned that graduations will be impacted unless the university resolves the dispute by halting its plans to cut over 130 jobs.
Alongside the boycott, UCU members will take other forms of industrial action including working to rule and boycotting processes related to management’s ‘transformation programme’ of cuts.
The boycott follows an overwhelming vote for industrial action against the cuts, which would see more than a third of academics axed in the 11 affected departments in the schools of arts & humanities; culture & society; and professional studies, science & technology.
UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: ‘We warned Goldsmiths that we will not allow it to bulldoze brutal cuts of this scale through, but despite our overwhelming vote for industrial action management has refused to listen.
‘It now has two weeks to change course and avoid a marking boycott.
‘The boycott will impact graduations and cause severe disruption.
‘It is the last thing our members want to do, but the alternative is allowing the leadership team at Goldsmiths to abandon the university’s commitment to the arts and turn a once proud institution into a shell of its former self.
‘This is something we cannot allow. We urge vice-chancellor Frances Corner to stop this cultural vandalism and work with us to protect Goldsmiths’ future. The ball is now in her court.’
Over 87% of UCU members who voted said yes to strike action in a ballot with a turnout of 69%.
Members also backed taking action short of strike, such as a marking boycott.
Management has now confirmed it wants to make extraordinary cuts that would see almost half the academics in the schools of arts & humanities; culture & society; and professional studies, science & technology axed (a role reduction of 91.5 from 262.9 full time equivalent).
This includes sacking half the academics in history (a staffing reduction of six from 12 FTE), more than half of the academics in sociology (a staffing reduction of 13.5 from 25.1 FTE), and more than a third of all English and creative writing academics (a staffing reduction of 11 from 26.5 FTE).
Anthropology, music, educational studies, theatre & performance, psychology, and social, therapeutic and community studies (STaCS) would also be cut drastically.
Grady said: ‘The cuts being proposed at Goldsmiths are of such a scale they are almost incomprehensible, and it is no wonder that staff have overwhelmingly voted for industrial action.
‘They are not just defending their jobs, they are fighting for the very future of this institution.
‘If management succeeds in steamrolling these devastating cuts through, Goldsmiths will be unrecognisable from the great creative powerhouse it currently is.
‘Our members at the university have the union’s full backing, this includes access to our local defence fund to support sustained industrial action.
‘We urge management to think again and work with us to protect courses and jobs, otherwise Goldsmiths will see unprecedented industrial unrest.’
Meanwhile, a strike ballot will open on Monday 15 April at Sheffield Hallam University, the UCU announced yesterday.
The union has accused the university of pushing ahead with expensive building projects while launching a wholesale attack on staff and students through an unprecedented cuts programme, severely breaching the post-92 contract and national framework, and attacking working conditions.
The university has said 225 academic jobs will be axed, with up to 80 staff facing compulsory redundancy.
Around 140 senior experienced academics have already left following the opening of a voluntary severance scheme in December (2023) and the university is now ploughing ahead with further compulsory job losses.
Cuts come alongside unprecedented breaches of the post-92 national contract that will severely impact research and teaching.
The university intends to completely remove the (grade 9) principal lecturer role, force line management responsibilities onto (grade 8) lecturers and create a new teaching (grade 6) ‘academic tutor’ role.
Sheffield Hallam claims it needs to make the cuts because of ‘the financial climate for higher education’ including high inflation and international student recruitment.
But it has refused to review its building costs, which have exceeded £200m in recent years. This includes its new campus in London, part of an £8bn development, or its Howard Street development, where it has so far spent over £40m on three new buildings.
Detrimental changes to staffing roles would limit lecturers’ career progression, force senior lecturers to become line managers taking them away from teaching and research and increasing their already high workloads, and will mean students are taught by non-lecturing staff, lowering the quality of learning and breaking the link between teaching and research – by which higher education is defined.
UCU leader Grady said: ‘Sheffield Hallam staff will be voting to take strike action because the cuts management is trying to force through are scandalous.
‘They would see teaching, research and academic standards torn to shreds.
‘We also refuse to allow a race to the bottom at former polytechnics. Managers cannot tear up crucial agreements like the national framework and post-92 contract, which secure the working conditions and academic standards of the sector.
‘Hallam’s management has made reckless financial decisions, taking out large debts that leave the university more vulnerable to inflationary pressures.
‘It is outrageous that rather than reviewing its spending on new buildings and a satellite campus halfway across the country, management would rather slash jobs, jeopardise academic standards, and tear up our hard-won terms and conditions. We urge the university to urgently take stock and change course.’

  • UCU has attacked the government for cutting funding to creative arts courses after an announcement that it will cut funding for creative arts courses and widening access programmes.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: ‘The government’s assault on the arts is already having a devastating impact on creative courses, and risks turning higher education into an arid desert of courses designed solely to meet employability metrics.
‘Arts subjects are increasingly becoming the preserve of the rich, and this latest attack will further shut down opportunities for working class students.
‘Vice-chancellors need to stop closing courses and fight attempts to devalue the arts.
‘Meanwhile, we need an incoming Labour government to reinstate full levels of high-cost subject support for arts subjects and for proper investment in careers advice for students to ensure everyone has access to the life-changing potential of university.’

  • Staff at the University of Kent have backed strike action in defence of jobs. The result comes as the person in charge of the cuts, vice-chancellor Karen Cox, has announced she will step down in May, before they are even implemented.

An overwhelming 85% of UCU members who voted said yes to strike action in a ballot with a turnout of 57%. The vote comes after 58 staff were placed at risk of redundancy as part of a programme that would see courses closed across the university.
Courses set to go include art history, music and audio technology, philosophy, religious studies, anthropology, health and social care, and journalism.
A petition to save the courses has now reached over 16k signatures. Management also wants to slash the amount of time staff have allocated to research from 40% to as little as 20%.
Kent says it needs to make the cuts to ‘focus on core growth areas’ and ‘achieve a sustainable financial model’.
But the cuts to courses will severely damage student learning and create academic cold spots so future students from the local area will be unable to access arts, humanities and social sciences courses, impacting the university’s widening participation goals.
And research time cuts will harm the university’s academic standing and ability to conduct world leading research.
UCU general secretary Grady said: ‘Vice-chancellor Karen Cox looks like an arsonist trying to flee the scene, now that her resignation has been announced.
‘These cuts amount to a bonfire of undergraduate courses, they will have devastating consequences on the university and its local community and must now be halted immediately.
‘Staff and students urgently need a new senior leadership team that will work with us to build a sustainable future for the university.
‘If management refuses to listen to staff and instead tries to push ahead with its cuts agenda, our members have made it clear they are prepared to strike.’