Lecturers at London metropolitan University went on strike strike on Thursday May 7th 2009, as part of a campaign against cuts. The university, the largest university in London spread over campuses in Hackney, Islington, Whitechapel and Holloway, had been hit by heavy government funding cuts, imposed following alleged ‘inaccurate reporting’ of students completing courses… The funding cuts amounted to £15m per year, as well as a ‘clawback’ of a further £36.5m. Under the rules, students are identified as non-completions if they do not take the final assessment of each module.
An external audit of the university in 2008, by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (Hefce), an independent quango that manages all universities, found London Met had wrongly claimed £36.5million over three years for students who did not finish their courses. London Met is well known for widening access to people from disadvantaged backgrounds with a range of unique courses. More than 97 per cent of the students went to state schools and more than half are from ethnic minorities. It is felt that Hefce should give more leeway to universities taking students that are, statistically, more likely to drop out midway through courses.
The cuts were threatening:
– up to quarter of the staff dismissed
– nurseries closed
– libraries short-staffed and, in the longer term, closed
– several courses closed and many others severely hit
– outsourcing of IT and Media support
– module choice restricted
– less contact time with staff
A significant proportion of these staff were employed on a part-time basis, and thus counted as 0.5 full-time equivalent posts, so the actual teaching deficit created by these redundancies threatened a profound and devastating effect on current courses.
There was loud outrage expressed that the University’s, er, misrepresentation of its drop-out rates, concocted by LMU’s management, was leading to drastic job losses for staff and would impact heavily on students. None of whom had been caught fiddling the figures. The lecturers aimed to avoid hitting exams but called on all students to join them in their protests.
On 11th May 2009, a large group of students from London Metropolitan University’s John Cass department of Art, Media & Design began occupation of part of the Commercial Road building in protest to university management’s plans for imminent and unprecedented staff redundancies.
As some of the students occupiers commented: “These teaching cuts have been planned despite Secretary of Universities John Denham calling for savings to be made in administration costs, rather than the core university business of teaching and research. Mr Denham has also recently called for universities across the country to offer more vocational degrees. It would appear to LMU students that management is not listening to government and forging ahead with plans which will almost certainly spell the end for many high-quality vocational degrees. Up until this point senior management have relayed almost no information on proposed redundancies and cutbacks to students, creating an air of distress and frustration. Many students are unsure whether they wish to continue their courses with so much uncertainty, it is expected that most students will not know the outcome of next years teaching until they return at the beginning of the Autumn semester.”
Later in the year, official inquiries into how London Met had come to the point of falsely declaring their drop-out rates criticised the management for knowingly submitting figures concealing real completion rates, and operating a dictatorial regime.
Although less than the proposed 550 jobs were, in the end, lost (188 in 2009 I think), more job cuts followed, in 2011 (when 70% of courses were slashed), in 2012, and again in 2013. In 2015 LMU staff went on strike again after 165 job cuts were threatened.
LMU also got into hot water in 2012, when the Home Office UK Border Agency suspended its licence to to be eligible to sponsor both new student visa applications as well as existing student visas, for foreign students from outside of the European Union and theEuropean Economic Area, because it was discovered that “more than a quarter of the students in the test sample did not in fact have leave to remain in the UK, that the University did not have and could not provide sufficient proof of English-language proficiency standards for some of its students, and the fact that the University was unable to confirm the attendance of its students, in some 57% of the sampled cases.”
The University also faced pressure from local campaigners, students and staff, after it was revealed that former undercover police spy Robert Lambert was teaching there. Lambert eventually resigned in December 2015.
Struggles against cuts and management shenanigans at London Met continue…
An entry in the 2016 London Rebel History Calendar – check it out online