Strike threat at universities

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The Independent Online
University lecturers yesterday raised the spectre of campus strike action in protest at proposed redundancies of hundreds of staff.

An emergency motion passed by the Association of University Teachers at its annual conference in Scarborough yesterday called for protests including strike ballots in the worst-hit institutions.

Lecturers accused their employers of using a recent assess-ment of universities' research performance as a cover for job losses which, in reality, were prompted by funding cuts.

Vice-chancellors were using the Research Assessment Exercise to single out some staff as poor research performers and then target them for redundancy or early retirement, the union claimed.

Early indications of proposed job cuts in UK universities - 70 of which are expected to be operating at a deficit by the end of the century - suggest the sector is facing losses on a scale not seen for a decade, with some individual institutions contemplating dozens of redundancies.

Nottingham University has prompted outrage among its academic staff by compelling lecturers to submit research plans in order to select 50 candidates for redundancy.

The AUT called on vice-chancellors to delay staff reviews until the publication of a report, due in July, on the future of higher education by Sir Ron Dearing's committee of inquiry.