"Whose Brookes? Our Brookes."
Student outrage sparks protest against University cuts and staff reductions.
Photo by Lauren Acton-Taylor.
A protest, conducted by ‘Save Our Lecturers’, was held in front of the John Henry Brookes building, Headington campus on Wednesday afternoon where Oxford Brookes students displayed displeasure with recent university cuts. The cuts have involved a 40% reduction in staff across multiple departments, and the complete shutdown of two courses, Maths and Music.
Their main speaker, Yuri Lewinski, [and others] spoke to the crowd, expressing frustration felt by students. Lewinski commented:
“This has been communicated in the middle of an academic year, directly contradicting the previous assurances of a good financial position from the university (within the same semester). Furthermore, our lecturers have been given up to three weeks to decide on whether they're taking the voluntary severance package. But the worst offense, I think, is the fact that none of the affected staff were consulted or even informed about this short-term prediction taking place. They just didn't know until it was communicated to them. It's treating people like objects, and it's just not okay.”
The UCU (University & College Union), who attended the protest this afternoon, found that the staff cuts could come as soon as January 2024 and that Brookes is claiming the 48 members of academic staff will save them £2m per year. The UCU’s statement, ‘Strike Ballot Threat in Fight against Oxford Brookes cuts’, released on the 20th of November, highlighted the university’s financial situation stating:
“Oxford Brookes is in excellent financial health, with an income of £217m, a £3.7m surplus, and cash reserves of £127m. Its vice-chancellor takes home a total pay packet worth £253k.”
The cuts have been said to be a result of financial challenges felt throughout the university.
News of the complete closure of the maths and music courses has unsurprisingly been received poorly, as many students feel this taints the reputation of their degree and will affect the morale of their lecturers as they continue.
Students are worried this is the start of anxious and uncertain times throughout their university career. Many of their lecturers now fear for the safety of their jobs or have no promotional incentives to increase performance and wonder if these factors start to affect the quality of the student’s education and the opportunities presented to them.
There is an expression of sadness for the lecturers the students have come to build relationships with, as well as worry for the future and safety of their courses as they progress through their education.
Students are also concerned that the handling of the closures is a disturbing insight into the future of the university being treated more like a business, and the students as numbers, shifting the focus and aims of the university away from bettering education towards turning a profit.
Brookes Student Union President, Jacob Callicott, provided a statement from the Union:
“Student concern is clear. We are aware and saddened by the announced cuts. There is a sense of uncertainty and confusion felt by impacted students. Students have taken to direct action in response to current course closures and staff redundancies. As a Students' Union, we are committed to supporting our students and have been providing forum spaces for students to feedback on their core concerns and expectations from the University. We will continue to be a valuable medium to communicate student concerns during this time.”
Lewinski and the movement, ‘Save Our Lecturers’, urge students and supporters to sign petitions found online to help the lecturers and save the courses affected by the cuts, at change.org.
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