Oxford Brookes staff and students letter of support to the Oxford Action for Palestine Solidarity Encampment

The Oxford Action for Palestine (OA4P) encampment was started by members of the University of Oxford’s community on Monday 6th May. By this time, over 35,000 Palestinians of Gaza had been killed by Israel in the past seven months; all twelve universities in Gaza had been targeted and destroyed by Israel; an unprecedented number of journalists had been killed; Israel had systematically dismantled healthcare within Gaza; and two-thirds of all dwellings in Gaza had been destroyed. Meanwhile, Israel has placed a blockade on basic services and humanitarian assistance to Gaza. The ICJ determined in January that it is plausible that Israel’s actions amount to a genocide of the Palestinians of Gaza.

It has been reported that the University of Oxford is among the top five UK universities in receiving funds from arms producing and military services companies, and has research collaborations with companies developing weapons and military technology. On 1 May,  the International Centre of Justice for Palestinians (ICJP) wrote to the University of Oxford and 81 other UK universities, alerting them of the potential risk of criminal liability over any investments held in both arms companies and Israeli settlements. Despite repeated calls, the University of Oxford has failed to disclose whether it has direct and/or indirect investments in companies that are complicit in the attack on Gaza, and has failed to acknowledge and condemn the systematic and complete destruction of higher education in Gaza, including the killing of over 5,000 students, 100 professors, and 3 principals.

OA4P are demanding that the University of Oxford discloses its investments, and divests from arms companies as well as any other organisations that profit from Israeli apartheid, occupation, or genocide. OA4P are also calling for an institutional boycott of Israeli universities while genocide, apartheid, or occupation continue, and that the University of Oxford provides support for a Palestinian-led rebuilding of the twelve universities in Gaza destroyed by Israel.

These demands align with repeated calls from Palestinian trade unions to end all complicity and stop arming Israel. We support them and urge the University to take immediate actions to end any investment in, institutional relationships, or procurement contracts with companies and academic institutions funding and supplying weapons to the Israeli military or enabling Israel’s violations of international law through the crimes of occupation, apartheid or genocide. We are also concerned by the Prime Minister’s threatening language regarding these peaceful encampments, and condemn shallow political attempts to distract from the urgent onslaught taking place in Rafah – one that is being enabled by the UK government while most universities remain silent and complicit.

(The text above has been agreed by a group of Oxford and Reading Trade Unions from their statement to ‘Stand in Solidarity with the Oxford Action for Palestine encampment’ – we thank the organisers for letting us reproduce it here).

This letter and call for signatures from members of Oxford Brookes University is to extend our solidarity to OA4P, support the right to protest, and ask members to visit the encampment and support it in any way they can. Donations to the camp can be made by following the link at https://linktr.ee/oxact4pal

Please only sign this if you are staff or student at Oxford Brookes University. Link to Google Form to sign the letter.

This call for signatures is produced by the Oxford Brookes UCU branch, the Brookes UCU Palestine Solidarity group and follows UCU’s national policy, which states that ‘UCU supports all those standing against complicity in genocide, and for decolonisation, freedom, and equality. We reiterate our call for an immediate ceasefire, the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages, unrestricted access to humanitarian aid, and the lifting of the siege of Gaza.’ For a list of support from faculty at the University of Oxford, see here.

List of names

  1. Dr Maïa Pal, Senior Lecturer in International Relations
  2. Dr Lili Schwoerer, Teaching Fellow in Sociology
  3. Gerard Ward, Associate Lecturer (Law)
  4. Dana Wentworth, Lecturer
  5. Dr Tina Managhan, Senior Lecturer, International Relations
  6. Andrew Kilmister, Senior Lecturer in Economics, Oxford Brookes Business School
  7. Dr Kate West, Senior Lecturer in Visual Criminology
  8. Hanna Klien-Thomas, Research Fellow
  9. Helene Kazan- Senior Lecturer in Fine Art
  10. Rosamond Lynch, Student
  11. Daniela treveri Gennari, Professor of Cinema Studies 
  12. Francesco Sticchi, Lecturer in Film Studies 
  13. Dr Max Morris, Senior Lecturer in Criminology
  14. Anonymous, Researcher
  15. Tim Jones, Professor
  16. Dr Hazel Dawe, Associate lecturer 
  17. Patrick Alexander, Professor of Education
  18. Jon Wheatley, Senior Lecturer
  19. Stefanos Ioannou, Senior Lecturer in Economics
  20. Chrissie Steenkamp, Reader in Social and Political Change
  21. Louise Stafford, Programme Lead
  22. Shaan Syed, Associate Lecturer
  23. Rachel Ambrose, Mental Health Nursing Lecturer 
  24. Stuart Whigham, Senior Lecturer in Sport, Coaching and Physical Education
  25. Maria Daskalaki, Professor in Organisation Studies
  26. Valerie van Mulukom, Senior Lecturer
  27. Roderick Galam, Senior Lecturer
  28. Dr Ivan Čavdarević, Lecturer in Law
  29. Sue Brownill, Professor
  30. Maya Corry, Senior Lecturer in the History of Art
  31. Cathy d’Abreu
  32. Sam Skinner, Lecturer in Fine Art
  33. Anonymous, Associate Lecturer
  34. Zoë Jordan, Senior Lecturer 
  35. Ahalya Bala, Lecturer in Criminology 
  36. Judy Sandeman, Lecturer
  37. Dr Sara le Roux, Reader in Applied Economics and Decision 
  38. Achas Burin, Lecturer
  39. Jill Millar, Senior Lecturer
  40. Molly Cochran, Reader in International Relations
  41. Alex Goody, Professor of Twentieth Century Literature and Culture
  42. Dr Birgit den Outer, Senior Lecturer
  43. Anonymous staff
  44. Mel Nowicki, Reader in Urban Geography
  45. Judie Gannon, OBBS
  46. Charoula Tzanakou, Reader
  47. Dr Stephen Hurt, Reader in International Relations
  48. Rylie White, 1st year Student for urban planning
  49. Jelena Stojkovic, Senior Lecturer
  50. Zac Coleman, Master’s student
  51. Anonymous student
  52. Claudia Lueders, Lecturer in Politics
  53. Lucy Ford, Senior Lecturer International Relations
  54. Ariadne Kline, Student

HUMAN BEINGS BEFORE VANITY BUILDINGS! BROOKES UCU STRATEGY

CUTS AT BROOKES: WHAT’S GOING ON?

HUMAN BEINGS BEFORE VANITY BUILDINGS!

Oxford Brookes University is currently facing a third round of Voluntary Severance (VS). In the first round, in November 2023, the Vice Chancellor’s Group (VCG) decided to close the Music department through a teach-out of the current cohort and by making a Reader and Professor redundant this year. Specific departments in Arts, Humanities, Social Sciences and Maths were targeted with VS and redeployment, and 48 people were at risk. Around 20 people left in January, and several departments made large collective sacrifices by proposing fractional contracts to save posts. The second round of VS saw more departments included, and about 8 people left. 

In the current third round, over 800 people have been sent a VS letter across all four faculties. The VCG now says it needs to make £6.5m savings, or 5% of staffing costs. This could mean well over 100 people leaving by the summer, and more savings in the next academic year have already been announced as necessary. On top of staff cuts, the VCG is pushing changes to workload planning tariffs, reductions in research hours, and potentially a major restructuring.

Since the third round was announced by email to all staff on 19/03, and despite these staggering numbers, no meeting has, to this date (18/04), been organised by the VCG or the faculty Deans. There is no doubt that there is a national crisis in the UK today facing all universities, and especially post-1992s. As of today, over 40 universities are facing cuts, closures, and restructurings. 

External factors as well as inflation are contributing to this. Yet Brookes’ UG student numbers increased from last year, and staffing costs have not increased. Up to now, we’ve been considered a healthy university.

So why is Brookes suddenly in such a bad financial situation?

Is it as bad as they say? Yes, but for very different reasons than those claimed by VCG

Has it been mismanaged? Yes. For a longer financial analysis, see: https://oxfordbrookes.web.ucu.org.uk/oxford-brookes-ucu-financial-analysis-summary-april-2024/

Here are some reasons why:

  • Brookes has one of the highest levels of external borrowing in the UK as percentage of total income (92.3%) according to HESA’s 20/21 data.
  • This debt is due to a range of questionable expenditures including estate development (student housing, new buildings and facilities, acquisition of new properties) financed by loans involving strict covenants. These were bad bets
  • Overambitious recruitment targets: for example, in June 23, the VCG budgeted, based on faculty projections, with a 21% increase in PG recruitment for 23/24. These projections inform future investments and give creditors a false sense of the university’s potential finances.

SAVE OUR BROOKES! What can we do? We need:

  • Transparency: better communication on the financial situation and a policy to ‘open the books’
  • A pause on any major capital investments and reversal of new plans
  • Prudent recruitment targets that do not lead to further financial gambling
  • Reduce costs of VCG through senior management pay cuts
  • Establish a Joint Staff Committee where staff and unions have actual negotiating power with management and with accountability for management’s decisions
  • Establish a robust and contractually binding working hours and duties agreement 
  • Support national call for reinstating a student cap and pressure VCG to lobby UCEA and Government

CHANGE THE VISION GOING FORWARD 

HUMAN BEINGS BEFORE VANITY BUILDINGS!

Help us develop a new model of financial viability that includes staff and students in decision-making, make sure VCG negotiates with us locally on workloads, organise nationally with other branches.

JOIN UCU (www.ucu.org.uk/join) to help us build this vision and pressure the VCG and the Board of Governors. This branch achieved important concessions this year but we could achieve so much more if more people join us. https://oxfordbrookes.web.ucu.org.uk/

X/Twitter: BrookesUCU Instagram: oxford_brookes_ucu

Oxford Brookes UCU – Financial Analysis Summary April 2024

Oxford Brookes UCU – Financial Analysis Summary

Introduction:

As discussed in recent Branch meetings, we have compiled a summary of the financial analysis conducted by the UCU Negotiating Committee during the recent formal consultation process on compulsory redundancies to share with our Branch members.

To this end, we have shared the following headlines at recent Branch meetings under 6 key points which are articulated in more detail below.

Key findings:

  • Oxford Brookes is heavily indebted and is in the midst of an ambitious capital development programme that drives the redundancy proposals coming from management – and the current voluntary severance scheme.

Oxford Brookes’ capital development programme and financial strategy has left the University in a precarious position in terms of debt-to-income ratio.  In the most recent publicly available data on the University’s financial performance returned to HESA in 2021/22, the University had the highest ratio of ‘External borrowing as a % of total income’ in the UK at a rate of 92.3% (https://www.hesa.ac.uk/data-and-analysis/finances/kfi).

This in effect means that the University has exhausted its capacity in terms of borrowing to fund its capital development programme, and in turn, left itself in a precarious position as there is no capacity to restructure its borrowing commitments and covenants at a time where interest rates have increased significantly. It has therefore turned its attention to making cost-savings to shore up the University’s finances in the short and medium term.

  • A recent decision to bring forward work on the Clive Booth Student Village leads to a massive drain on cash this year, which required a new overdraft / revolving credit facility being put in place to cover cash “troughs” in the current and future financial years.

Brookes was offered a deal to bring forward the commencement of construction work at Clive Booth Student Village. In return, they would get additional work included in the originally planned price, with the Board of Governors approving a change to the project that would deliver an additional building for the same approved budget, with the additional building being left as a shell construction.  

However, this decision required a significant outlay of cash in the 2023/24 financial year in return for this change to the project, resulting in increased financial pressures as the University’s cash balances were deployed at an earlier point in light of this.

  • Management plans do not explicitly recognise the trouble associated with such low cash positions, but the logic of their plans is clear: find savings to rebuild cash more quickly and to allow further capital work to go ahead.

It has become abundantly clear to us that the urgency of the cost-saving measures sought by the end of the 2023/24 financial year was clearly linked to concerns with the University’s cash-flow situation and the debt-to-income ratio.  

When pressed upon this within our negotiation meetings throughout the consultation process, the University management initially refused to move their position regarding the capital investment plan – with a central argument that they would not consider reducing capital investment whereby these investments would be ‘income-generating’. We have continued to express our opposition to ongoing capital investment when jobs are at risk.

  • The “external forces” that management evoke are seriously exacerbated by decisions they themselves have taken.

Given the University management’s refusal to acknowledge the impact of internal strategic and investment decisions, it has become apparent that the VCG and Board of Governors has sought to externalise the problems the University faces through its constant reference to increased inflation, pension costs, real-terms decreases in the value of UK/Home tuition fees, and a downturn in international recruitment.

However, whilst all of these external factors are affecting Brookes as it has the entire higher education sector, all of these external factors were entirely predictable. The proposed job losses at Brookes are due to the fact that the University’s level of indebtedness and requirements to generate large surpluses on a regular basis leave the University with no capacity to deal with any short-term financial headwinds.

  • Brookes now has: (i) debts three times higher than the sector average and (ii) cash lower than all but a few institutions. If we were looking at a benign period in English HE funding, it would be concerning. As it is, it looks reckless.

As outlined above, the level of indebtedness of the University is one of the central drivers of the urgency of cost-saving measures. The University’s lending covenants require urgent reductions in the level of debt-to-income ratios in the 2024/25 financial year due to the strategic mismanagement of the University’s finances, with the challenging financial circumstances in the HE sector and increased interest rates leaving no room for further renegotiation of its lending commitments in any way which would not be highly detrimental.

  • Staff will bear the brunt and this is unlikely to be the only round of cuts in the next year or two.

The UCU Negotiating Team provided an extensive list of non-pay saving suggestions to the University during the consultation process – and has continued to do so alongside Unison colleagues during the current discussions on the more recent cost-saving measures which included the recent voluntary severance scheme.

However, it appears that the University’s financial peril, and the lack of scope left for significant non-pay cost-saving measures given that most of these have been exhausted, means that the recent move towards reductions of 5% in staffing costs is a direct consequence of the University’s financial mismanagement. Notwithstanding a shift in the University’s position on the planned capital investment, the urgency of the timescale for the savings required in the 2024/25 financial year means the blame for this lies at VCG’s door.

To find out more about our campaigns and how to join and support UCU, see: 

https://oxfordbrookes.web.ucu.org.uk/

X/Twitter: BrookesUCU

Instagram: oxford_brookes_ucu

Update on New Phase of the Campaign

On 11 March 2024, the closure of Music is still ongoing and both members of staff facing CR were served notice last week.  This is a very sad time for Oxford Brookes and we will continue to fight this any way we can.
Brookes’s communication on the VS and compulsory redundancy situation states that aside from colleagues in music (and we are still fighting this), all staff who were at risk of redundancy no longer are. In large part this was because the union argued that the VS scheme should be widened so those whose jobs were at risk could be saved – and also because we persuaded the management to accept reductions in hours of those colleagues in the at risk groups to protect their jobs.
Whilst this can’t be counted as an unadulterated victory, members are in a better place than would have been without the branch’s efforts.
The threat of industrial action will also have helped persuade management to think again.
Unfortunately, this is just the beginning, and the negotiating team along with UNISON branch officers will be meeting regularly to negotiate and propose non staff cost savings: so my message is that the stronger we are as a union, the greater our chances are of avoiding job cuts through redundancies in the future.
Please continue to support us, and please ask colleagues who are not yet members, that they should join UCU: the more we are the stronger we are.
Here is what your reps are pushing for at the moment:
1.)  In response to the university’s proposed revisions to its currently incomplete Compulsory Redundancy Policy, we have counter-proposed a Redundancy Avoidance policy and have refused to further discuss the university’s initial proposal until we receive a formal response on our counter-proposal.
2.)  We are initiating a cross-program, cross-faculty (i,e, university-wide) “Save Research at Brookes” committee to put a stop to the competitive race to the bottom in terms of research allocations and other  measures in place that have traditionally supported research (such as teaching buy-outs, sabbatical schemes, university funding and research centres). The aim of this committee will be to share information and strategies that can help to maintain research as a priority of the institution and as integral to our teaching.  We believe this will be incredibly important as the university continues to look for ways to save costs and as teaching demands rise as a result of VS and increases in the number of vacant posts (as staff who leave are not replaced).
3.)  We are demanding that staff members who agree to VS and/or are made redundant be treated with due respect for their contributions at Brookes and that efforts are made to enable them to retain their Brookes’ email addresses, library access and access to their offices, as necessary, for a reasonable amount of time after they leave their posts.  We understand that there are security issues involved, but the branch position is that staff who voluntarily leave should not be treated as security threats; rather, they should be treated as valued alumni.  This is especially important with the quick time-frames in which VS and CR have been implemented.

Save Our Lecturers Protest, 15 February

The Save Our Lecturers campaign held another protest on 15 February. Sadly, compulsory redundancies are still threatening members of staff.

There will be a branch meeting on 5 March, 4-5pm to update UCU members on the latest developments.

UCU’s ReclaimHE campaign will officially launch on 28 February, and more information can be found here.

Speech from a member of staff who, after 20 years of work at Oxford Brookes, has taken voluntary redundancy.

Update from our campaigns organiser. While the threat of industrial action did achieve some results, compulsary redundancies are still on the table.

THIS IS NOT THE END: Response by UCU exec to Brookes VCG announcement on 26 January

This is the Brookes UCU exec team’s response to VCG’s announcement sent to members on Thursday 1 February 2024

THIS IS NOT THE END! WE’VE ACHIEVED SOME THINGS, BUT THE FIGHT CONTINUES.

We are writing to give you an initial response to the VCG’s announcement on the ‘Outcome of consultation on University cost savings measures’ on Friday 26 January. We held exec and branch meetings on Wednesday 31 January to discuss and clarify this announcement and its various implications. Apologies for the long message but there are several issues we need to report and clarify our position on.

To restate our official position, we are officially in dispute with the university, and we held a consultative e-ballot mid-December 2023. We asked the membership two questions:

  • Do you support taking strike action in response to proposed compulsory redundancies and suspension of staff progression and promotion?
  • Do you support taking industrial action short of striking (ASOS) (excluding a marking and assessment boycott (MAB)) in response to proposed compulsory redundancies and suspension of staff progression and promotion?

On both questions members who voted did so affirmatively by more than 86%with a majority of our membership participating in the e-ballot. We decided then to wait until the end of the consultation period scheduled for 17 January 2024, at which point we submitted a 22 page report to VCG including a variety of cost-saving alternatives and arguments for why the VCG’s process had been highly inadequate and unfair. Individual departments also submitted their own reports and proposals.

Following the latest announcement, we believe important progress has been achieved thanks to the threat of industrial action and detailed negotiation. There is no doubt that the stronger we are, the more we can achieve. History and Anthropology, thanks to significant sacrifices from staff, have been declared safe, for the time being, and their VS pools are being closed. The VCG has agreed to open the VS scheme to other departments, which is a way to try and mitigate the threat of compulsory redundancies.

However, these new measures will also cause a range of further problems for staff and students. Crucially, 2 people remain at threat of Compulsory Redundancy (CR) in Music, and this is simply unacceptable to us. Several departments (English, Architecture and Film), where pools of VS schemes remain open, are still on hold as to whether they are safe or not from CR. Their situation is dependent on the outcome of the new VS scheme. Music and Maths are still to be closed.

There also remains significant problems and questions regarding policies and procedures for cuts and redundancies, and regarding impact on remaining staff. Information shared with us reveals that in some cases, such as English, staff’s workloads could increase by 50%, and this was calculated before even the new round of VS.

Regarding impact on students, PhD, MA, and UG students are losing their supervisors and advisors with very little to no extra support. Students remain confused by the situation and are having modules closed at very short notice.

The full impact of VS on staff and students this semester remains very unclear and unsettling, and we are still collecting information from you about this, so please get in touch with any updates.

The response from VCG of concerns raised by the Students’ Brookes Union remains particularly unsatisfactory to us, especially in relation to 1) MA and PhD research students losing supervisors, 2) the vague promise of more wellbeing support, and 3) the need for much clearer and more accessible communication to students about the cuts.

Another important decision made by VCG regarding students (and linked to proposals for savings) is the announcement that the University will be charging students for any modules they have to repeat, even when they have received a disregard based on exceptional circumstances. We are very concerned about this change of policy and how it will negatively impact students awarded disregards and students with disabilities, caring commitments, and health issues.

To recap, this is where we think things stand:

Achievements: 

  • Reduction of CR from 28 to 2 full time staff members
  • Broadening of VS scheme (though this comes at significant cost and is still being done on a questionable basis regarding the selection of departments)
  • Progression from L to SL for those at the top of the scale
  • More inclusion of UCU/staff in negotiations as we believe our involvement has been central to the progress achieved

Ongoing (and new) problems:

  • No one is safe: We have been given no guarantees that there will not be the need for CR in the future; in fact, we have been explicitly told that in the current ‘environment’ no such assurances can be given.
  • 2 people still at risk of immediate CR.
  • Closure of Music and hence CR of remaining staff (3.5 FTE) during and at the end of the teachout.
  • Closure of Maths.
  • Impact of VS on staff and departments and on students – in terms of workload, continued uncertainty, and student experience.
  • The rationale and implications of the broadening of VS
  • PhD students, MA students, UG dissertation students losing supervisors and potential risk of ‘fire and rehire’ if supervisors rehired as ALs

In sum, this process has shown that no one is safe, both from financial decisions being made by VCG – which we continue to question and ask for more information on –  and from a range of external problems, which most universities in the UK are suffering from as well. We need a strong union to be able to push the VCG on all of these issues, as they are likely to continue and even get worse. We disagree with the VCG’s narrative that this is a problem caused only by external problems. 

We believe that the redundancy proposals are driven first and foremost by the university’s ambitious capital development project which, as indicated in the HESA report, has led to Brookes being the second most indebted university in the UK with anticipated cash flow problems. We believe it is this that is driving the sudden need for redundancies after assurances (just in October) that the university was in strong financial health with a rosy future ahead. In other words, yes, we are in a challenging, post-92, sector-wide environment, but the ‘external factors’ that university management keeps pointing to were not only foreseeable, their impacts have also been exacerbated by decisions by Brookes management to invest in buildings in the belief that this would solve the university’s financial problems.

We now understand that the University is extending the VS scheme to programmes where the SSRs are deemed inappropriate (this is a rapidly evolving situation, and we are seeking clarity on how and why departments have been included). If this concerns you, you should already have received a letter setting this out from the VCG. The VCG has stressed to us that this does not mean that those programmes are at particular risk; and currently there are no plans for further job cuts, but these are not being ruled out. There will be a series of meetings over the next few months between the employer and the unions to discuss and propose further savings, in the hope that these can be achieved without going down the CR route, which of course we would oppose vigorously.

To conclude on our response, following discussions yesterday, the Branch Exec thinks that at this stage, considering various factors including the ongoing uncertainty about the exact number of CRs, and the extension of VS, it is not in our best interests to trigger an industrial ballot at this point in time. However, this remains a very significant threat, especially as we continue building and reacting to the increasing workloads and problems faced by staff and students as Semester Two teaching begins.

We believe that this branch needs to continue campaigning on the following fronts, and we NEED YOUR HELP! Please contribute any way you can to maintain this campaign, which is undoubtedly going to continue for a while. #stoptheSHAMcuts.

Our goals remain:

  • The removal of remaining staff from CR.
  • The mitigation of impact of VS on remaining staff (in terms of workload) and on staff who may be offered this opportunity yet (in terms of growing unease about the futures of their departments, etc).
  • Achieving a commitment from VCG to open their books to staff and unions.
  • To push for the development of a UCU standing committee that has regular access to financial and strategic data so that we can avoid future compulsory redundancies
  • To achieve an agreed policy framework and procedure (with regular meetings and sharing of relevant financial data and strategic reports) so we can work with the university to avoid future compulsory redundancies – as recommended by national UCU policy guidance
  • To achieve a commitment to implement changes in procedures and organisation of admissions, marketing, recruitment, and website/IT departments, where affected staff have raised significant concerns in terms of how this is affecting their ratings as departments and thus putting them at risk of CR and VS.

Rally Report and Campaign Update 13/12/23

Dear members,
A lot happened last week, so here is a report from our event and the student protest. Please find below also an update on our upcoming actions, most urgently the need to vote in the consultative e-ballot by 12 NOON on Thursday 14 December, and how to support the campaign. Thanks!
 
– Report from ‘Stop the SHAM cuts’ launch rally and student protest on 6 Dec 2023
Brookes UCU organised a very well attended event on campus last week with 80 people present from both the staff and student community. Dr Jo Grady (General Secretary, UCU) spoke passionately about what is happening at Brookes and around the country in terms of terrible managerial decisions and attacks on the arts and humanities. Aberdeen and Stafforshire universities are also facing redundancies at the moment, and we witnessed large redundancies earlier this year at Brighton, Liverpool, and Goldsmiths, for example. Jo pledged to help and support the campaign through a national fund for campaigning, as well as the national strike fund, if things had to sadly get to that stage. We are not alone, and we will not fight this alone, was the key message.
SEE CLIPS OF JO GRADY’S SPEECH HERE.
Members of our negotiating team updated us on the very frustrating obstacles, delays and challenges they are facing when asking management for clarifications and rectifications due to problematic calculations.
A very eloquent student representative of the Save Our Lecturers campaign spoke and reported from their communication with management, which left students feeling patronised and ridiculed, and even more angry against the decisions which, in spite of management’s claims, will necessarily affect them, especially postgraduate cohorts, which seem to be always be scandalously forgotten, in spite of the unique and long-term contribution they make to our institution.
Dr Barbara Eichner (Reader in Music), Prof Alex Goody (English and Creative Writing), and Dr Tom Chambers (Senior Lecturer in Anthropology) made emotional and powerful pleas for supporting them as directly affected staff. They related specific info about the research and pedagogical merits of their departments, and why these cuts are morally shameful, financially challengeable, and ridiculously shortsighted.
Chris Jarvis, Oxford City councillor and Leader of the Green Party Group, spoke first as an alumnus of the Brookes MA History cohort, and reminded us of the value of providing education to local students, in small cohorts, who otherwise would not be able to attend university. The decisions to cut staff and close departments directly affects Brookes’s ability to carry out this social mission of resisting an increasingly elitist university offer. We need to keep post-1992s teaching arts and humanities! Let’s not go back in time, again! Sadly, these cuts are ideological, and another symptom of a short-sighted and managerially quantified neoliberal society.
On the same day, students from the Save Our Lecturers campaign staged a sit-in protest inside JHB forum. You can read a report of the protest here. Thank you so much to the students who are leading the way in terms of campaigning against these cuts!
 
NEXT ACTIONS:
 
– The Brookes UCU consultative e-ballot will close at 12 noon on Thursday 14 December. Don’t forget to vote! We have requested access to UCU’s national strike fund in case our ballot returned a vote in favour of industrial action in the new year. If action is decided, there will be financial support for it.
– Wednesday 13 December: STUDENT PROTEST IN JHB FORUM AT 12PM! This is the students’ last chance to get attention before everyone leaves, go support them!
– Students are also lobbying students to contact the SU to voice how they are affected by the cuts, and show their support for the campaign, as otherwise the SU cannot do much in terms of support for us.
– The Branch is meeting on Thursday 14 Dec to discuss the results of the e-ballot consultation.
– The Branch’s campaigns officer (Maia) is meeting reps from other branches facing cuts (e.g. Aberdeen, Staffordshire) on Thursday 14 Dec (organised by UCU national and Jo Grady)
– ‘DON’T LEAVE STUDENT RECRUITMENT TO THE MARKET!’ We are contacting Oxford MPs Anneliese Dodds and Layla Moran to launch a campaign to re-introduce some kind of targeting and planning of student recruitment at national level to protect universities like ours from suffering unfairly from student recruitment problems. Please support this by also writing to your MP and demanding that student recruitment is not just left to market competition. We are working on providing a template for this, so we will be back in touch about this.
– We are continuing to seek support from the Chancellor Patterson Joseph, who spoke on Twitter about gathering information before making a statement. We hope to hear from him this week and will continue to lobby him.
– We are also requesting minutes from the Board of Governors meetings when the cuts were discussed.
 

SHAM Cuts Friday Update, 1/12/23

As you will all know, 48 posts are currently at risk at Brookes across a number of programmes; and the department of Music and Maths are both for the chop.

The negotiating team along with our Regional Official, have been pushing on a number of fronts through a process of negotiation, to save these jobs and departments.

So far we have got the management to agree an extension to the consultation period, to give us longer to interrogate the university finances, and make counter proposals in terms of savings.

We are also looking closely at the criteria for the jobs they want to cut, to challenge where we can, any spurious or simply wrong calculations they have made.

We’ve also been supporting members in individual meetings with local managers to see if we can get a better deal in terms of VS, or a partial buyback etc.

However, the employer seems to be adamant that it is ‘imperative’ that the savings they want to make are made now – and certainly in this financial year. We are doing our own work in the background to find out the real reasons for this haste, because we believe the arguments about external pressures, and falling numbers fail to explain it.

At the recent VC talk to staff, the Finance Director told colleagues that more ’efficiency’ savings may need to be made next year – and when challenged, the VC said that further job cuts couldn’t be ruled out as part of this.

So it could be your job next.

That means that collectively we need to fight the current cuts, and make it as difficult as possible for the management to feel that the easy way out of a financial hole is to sack staff, and to force them to look for other savings – particularly given that the five year plan forecasts significant growth and an increased surplus.

The fight is on two fronts: our campaigns’ rep – Maia Pal –  has organised a rally next week, on Wednesday the 6th, at 2pm in Chakrabati in the JHB building – with external speakers, including Dr. Jo Grady, General Secretary of UCU. We will also be leafleting, and doing other things to raise awareness of the crisis the university is in, and our response to it. Please make every effort to come along, where alongside Jo, members of the negotiating team will be able to answer your questions and let you know what more we have been doing on your behalf.

We have got the support for the campaign from the Students’ Union, who are understandably seriously angry about losing lecturers and whole subjects, and about the impact this will have on the quality of the student experience.

Second, we will be running an e-ballot to consult members on next steps – with a view to taking industrial action if the threat of compulsory redundancies is not withdrawn: this will give us the authority to formally ballot for six months of action, including strikes if necessary. So please look out for this.

So join with us to stop the SHAM cuts!

In solidarity,

Alan Reeve

OBU UCU Branch Chair

Oxford Brookes UCU Motions on Redundancies

Oxford Brookes University Branch Motions:

Motion 1:

This Branch has no confidence in the financial management of the university by the VC, which is causing staff to be put at threat of compulsory redundancy.

Motion 2:

This Branch notes:

In order to meet claimed financial challenges, the VCG at Oxford Brookes University have proposed significant academic staff cuts across a number of programmes in the university, affecting up to 48 colleagues. These cuts may include compulsory redundancies, a block on any progression or promotion, and the closure of two departments – Maths and Music.

It further notes that the University intends that the majority of these cuts will come into effect from the end of January, 2024, prior to the start of the second semester, and therefore part way through the academic year.

The Branch believes:

First, based on the University’s own public accounts, that these cuts and other measures are unnecessary in order to resolve the current financial challenges of the institution, and are based on untested and unfounded long-term predictions of the student market in general.

Second, that there has been a failure to consult the union in any meaningful manner, and that the consultation period is inadequate for staff and their representatives to provide a substantive response.

Third, that the withdrawal of progression from L to SL is contrary to the principles of the Post 92 Framework Agreement to which Brookes is signed up as a member of JNCHES

The Branch demands:

1. That the threat of redundancies be withdrawn

2. That the university enter into meaningful consultations with the union over an appropriate period to arrive at an agreement on financial savings, avoiding the need for compulsory redundancies, which as a union we oppose; and to avoid the closure of Maths and Music.

3. That the university remove the block on automatic progression from L to SL, and on promotions.

If there is failure to reach agreement on these demands in good time, the Branch will consider possible further steps including industrial action.

Passed at the Extraordinary OBU UCU Branch Meeting, on the 17th of November, 2023