A south London university will close several humanities courses in a move which will see around 64 academic jobs axed.
More than 100 staff at the University of Roehampton could be made redundant and rehired under new contracts as part of the plans, the University and College Union (UCU) has said.
The university is set to close 19 courses to new students from September, including Classics, history, creative writing, drama, photography and philosophy courses after the changes were approved last week.
UCU bosses described the closures as “devastating”.
The union said 226 academics were notified in May that their jobs were at risk.
The university blamed the cuts on changing demand and financial challenges, including caps on regulated tuition fees, rises in costs and inflation.
It said that around 64 jobs are expected to be cut due to the closures and that it is launching new “career-focussed courses” across all departments.
A petition against the closures has been signed by more than 2,250 people.
Dame Mary Beard tweeted that the changes are “worse than sad” and “about a wider erosion of humanities” in new universities.
Outraged staff and students at Roehampton along with academics from across the UK have also taken to social media to slam the cuts.
‘Heartbroken and appalled’
One former student tweeted: “Heartbroken and appalled by the slashing of arts and humanities courses.
“I would not be who, or where, I am today without having studied at Roehampton.
“Such a shame so many others will now miss out. Solidarity with the staff and students.”
An academic from the University of York wrote that Roehampton “did an amazing job making humanities degrees accessible to a diverse group of students, including many from disadvantaged backgrounds”.
He added: “What we are seeing here is a heartbreaking reversion to a world where the less privileged are again educationally excluded.”
An archaeologist tweeted: “Roehampton University has always had an excellent reputation in humanities.
“Good teaching, good research, students go out into the world [and] make it a better place.
“Courses like this help us understand, our world, our past, ourselves. Axing them is incredibly short-sighted.”
Another tweet reads: “This is an appalling decision, but not an unexpected one.
“It is bad for the students, bad for staff, and ultimately, bad for the university, and for the whole sector, as it will embolden more universities to indulge in such destructive restructurings.”
Jo Grady, UCU general secretary, called the cuts “devastating for teaching and learning, particularly in the arts and humanities”.
She said: “The university has embarked upon a sham of a consultation, pretending it is listening to the concerns of staff whilst simultaneously asking them to sign redundancy agreements.
“It is deplorable behaviour and our union is now considering a legal challenge.
“The Conservative government has a clear agenda to restrict access to the arts and humanities – subjects that are well known for encouraging critical thinking. But rather than protecting these vital subjects, management at Roehampton are implementing unprecedented cuts.
“It is disgraceful.”
A spokesperson for the University of Roehampton said: “Like many UK universities, we are seeing student demand evolving, with some subject areas attracting great demand, and we are also facing financial challenges due to a range of factors, including caps on regulated tuition fees, removal of the ‘London Weighting’ element of the teaching grant, rises in costs, liabilities and inflation.
“As a result, we are implementing a programme of change to rebalance our resources and achieve our vision of providing an excellent student experience and delivering successful graduate outcomes in a sustainable way.
“This involves making some difficult and challenging decisions.
“Although we are, regrettably, ceasing new enrolments to a small number of courses which have experienced a significant fall in demand, we are also launching new career-focussed courses across the university, including in our School of Arts and School of Humanities.
“The change programme included a formal process of consultation, in line with the required legal process, about the shape of our university and strategic realignment to ensure we continue to deliver the best possible student outcomes for the future.
“We are doing our utmost to support everyone affected through this period of change and have established dedicated support services for our staff and student community.”
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