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News Story:

UK universities merging


Universities merging services could mean job losses, says Unite

Liverpool and Lancaster could be ‘the tip of the iceberg’

The merging of the academic and other services provided by the UK’s 160 universities could lead to job losses, Unite, the largest union in the country, has warned.

Unite’s concern centres on the current talks between Lancaster and Liverpool universities which are holding preliminary discussions to explore ‘the benefits’ of closer collaboration, and follows the sharing of services by Warwick, Birmingham and Nottingham universities.

Unite’s National Officer for Education, Mike Robinson called for the managements at Lancaster and Liverpool to be ‘transparent and open’ in their discussions on shared services. At present, the talks were ‘opaque and hidden from view’. Liverpool employs 8,300 staff and Lancaster 5,200.

He said: ‘Unite is concerned that services could be merged with potential for job losses. We call on the senior managements of both Liverpool and Lancaster universities to make clear any closer co-operation will not result in compulsory job losses.’

He said that parallels are being drawn with systems at Liverpool and Lancashire councils that share online and telephone services.

‘This could be the tip of the iceberg and if this is replicated across the 160 universities across the four countries of the UK, it could have serious implications in terms of jobs. On one hand, student university fees are hitting £9,000-a-year, but, on the other hand, the number of staff could be cut.’

Mike Robinson said: ‘When University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST) and University of Manchester merged in 2004, there were job losses and campus sell-offs. Both Liverpool and Lancaster are competing for overseas students, particularly in China, and both have ambitious plans with universities in China to recruit students into the UK.’

He said that merger talks were being driven by the coalition’s reduction of university funding, particularly the teaching grants being slashed by 90 per cent, and also within England by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), which allocates the cash from the Treasury to individual universities.