Published: 22nd April, 2011
by TOM FOOT
THE top boss of London Metropolitan University has told critics of his plan to close more than 400 undergraduate courses “don’t blame me”.
Vice chancellor Malcolm Gillies lashed out at the government after announcing plans to reduce the number of courses offered at the Holloway campus from 557 to 160. He blamed the government’s decision to end all public funding for humanities – including history, languages and art.
But staff have said there is “no justification for the cuts” and Jeremy Corbyn MP has pledged to raise the matter in the House of Commons next week.
Defending the dramatic overhaul on Tuesday, Mr Gillies told the Tribune: “I think what the government is doing is appalling. I do worry because there needs to be a wide range of courses.
“Students should be paying something towards their education. But the public has an obligation to keep funding universities. There is public benefit, and private benefit.”
He added: “The rise in fees mean students are going to pay for their education for 35 years to come. We’ve got to change. Courses need to meet the changing needs of the students.”
The decision to close 397 courses – which Mr Gillies accepts will lead to another mass wave of redundancies – follows two years of turmoil and strike action after the university’s management was exposed for financial mismanagement.
LMU was asked to pay back £40million it had wrongly claimed from the government for students that had in fact not completed their courses.
The university is renowned for teaching some unique courses, including the infamous “cabinet making”, which was praised by former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith, when the financial scandal broke in 2009.
Mr Gillies said the “tighter portfolio” would help his accountants keep track of how many students were completing their courses.
“Cabinet making stays,” he added. But entire departments including history, art and languages are expected to close.
Lecturers and staff will also be asked to work for 30 weeks in the year – as opposed to the previous 24 weeks – for the same money from September 2012.
“Some staff will lose their jobs,” he added.
In a statement, staff governors called on the board to resist the cuts. “No financial justification for these cuts has been put forward. The severe reduction in the undergraduate portfolio leaves London Metropolitan University vulnerable to takeover and asset stripping from competitor institutions.”