Queen's University to shed 100 jobs in cost-cutting plan

 

QUEEN’S UNIVERSITY Belfast is to shed over 100 of its academic staff as part of a controversial cost-saving exercise aimed at bringing the college into the table of the top 100 universities in the world.

Vice-chancellor Prof Peter Gregson said yesterday that the university’s governing body, its senate, voted in favour of the new plan which will see the loss of 103 posts by Christmas. Fifteen members voted for the proposals, six against and 4 abstained.

There will be job losses across all 20 college departments with the university no longer providing degree opportunities in German although German can be studied at certificate level.

A number of professors, lecturers, researchers and other staff will be made redundant in the voluntary severance scheme.

Prof Gregson wants to make Queen’s one of the top 100 universities in the world with a stronger concentration on fundraising research. It is currently 202nd in the world colleges league table.

“Queen’s has established itself as one of the UK’s 20 leading research-intensive universities. Our teaching is recognised as outstanding, and we have built one of the finest campuses of any UK institution. We can’t stop there,” he said yesterday.

“We have an obligation to build on those foundations for the sake of our staff, students and the community we serve,” he added. “We believe that Northern Ireland needs to be internationally competitive and Queen’s has an important role to play.”

Prof Gregson said money released by the job cuts would be “reinvested in jobs which are more closely aligned to the university’s current academic needs”. He said the college must be responsive to the needs of its “stakeholders”, including prospective students.

“This requires some changes in staffing levels across the university, and a managed moratorium and an enhanced voluntary severance scheme will be used to facilitate the necessary changes,” he said.

The University and College Union, which opposes the cuts but was unsuccessful in its lobbying of senate members, staged a picket yesterday ahead of the senate vote. Members were joined by students of German from Rathmore Grammar School in south Belfast.

The union said the proposals would cause major disruption to the university. “The whole ethos of the plan is concentration on international research at the expense of teaching and research on local issues,” the union said.

SDLP Assembly member and former member of Queen’s senate, Alex Attwood, said the plan should be suspended, as it was modelled on university practice in England which did not suit the North.

Sinn Féin MLA Sue Ramsey said her main concern was that Queen’s develop programmes with student welfare and education at its core “with research taking a close second place, not the other way around”.