University of Southampton to cut up to 75 academic jobs

The University of Southampton is to cut up to 75 academic posts as it moves from eight faculties to five.

The Russell Group university has said it wants to reduce its academic workforce by between 50 and 75 posts in six specific areas – English, law, chemistry, music, tribology and social sciences.

Staff and students have also been told on 13 November that Southampton will move from eight to five faculties as the next phase of its 10-year plan. The move is designed to combine subject areas into more coherent groupings and to strengthen research and interdisciplinary activity, the university said.

However, the plans to cut jobs and restructure have been condemned by the University and College Union as “rushed and dangerous”, saying they may damage the university’s ability to offer high-quality teaching.

Southampton was one of three Russell Group universities awarded bronze in the inaugural teaching excellence framework in June, which led its vice-chancellor Sir Christopher Snowden to brand the results of sector-wide audit of teaching quality as “meaningless” and “devoid of credibility”. Sir Christopher was later singled out for criticism over his £352,000-a-year pay and benefits package by universities minister Jo Johnson.

“You cannot deliver world-leading education by cutting staff,” said Moray McAulay, a UCU regional official, who added that “students cite lecturers as they key factor when it comes to teaching excellence so the university is unlikely to improve its teaching ranking by cutting staff”.

The planned job losses at Southampton follow similar announcements at other universities; this summer the University of Manchester said it was looking to shed 140 academic posts, while unions have warned that “up to 150 jobs” could go at Aberystwyth University under announced cost-cutting plans.

In a statement, the University of Southampton said that its plans outlined on 13 November “are not redundancies.”

“What was outlined on Monday was a target of 50 to 75 posts which the university hopes to achieve through a voluntary severance scheme,” it said. 

The restructuring of faculties was a separate development that was part of its long-term strategic plan, the university also said.

“None of these proposals have been hurried as the savings the university wishes to achieve were identified 12 months ago as part of a targeted plan of reshaping for the future,” the university said.

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