University cuts Sports Studies despite Student Protest

Posted on March 29, 2010 by

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The University of Southampton has taken the decision to cut Sports Studies and several other related programmes despite growing and vocal opposition by student activists.  The decision was taken last Thursday by the University Court whilst a noisy protest took place outside attended by over 50 staff and students, despite the decision being scheduled to took places in the holidays, when less students are around to be able to protest.

Students protesting outisde building 37, Highfield last Thursday

As has been covered previously by The Blowhole, Sports Studies and associated courses had been chosen to be phased out due to a lack of ‘top quality’ research being made by the staff running the course.  However, despite the universities claims in the press release released just after the decision that there was no financial considerations in the decision, as the university receives much of its funding from research and the university will see a funding shortfall of around 2% in real terms it campaigners have pointed out that it seems impossible that financial issues did not take feature in the minds of those making this decision.  Indeed, it is alleged that the university management had informed the School of Education to cut something from their remit, suggesting they had settled on sports studies as a previous target from a similar situation in 2003 rather than in an exhaustive search across their remit as currently suggested.

The university has been criticised by students currently on the course for a lack of dialogue with staff and students over the matter, with students on the courses only being informed days before the christmas holiday of the threat, and staff unable to speak against the idea before the announcement.  Indeed, in the meeting where the threat first emerged the director of sports programmes is alleged to have been turned away at the beginning of the meeting as the meeting was said to be irrelevant to them.  Out of the 9 stuff to be axed, only 3 have research included in their contracts, meaning that the university has criticised the department for not producing enough research when funding for more research has not been provided in the first place.   Staff would have potentially been able to negotiate these points, but instead they feel that this decision has been steamed through regardless.  Key documentation relating to the universities decision process have also allegedly been withheld so far, preventing anyone from proving what factors played a part in the decision, which staff are currently fighting to get hold of through various ongoing means (which The Blowhole will report on in due course when developments occur).

Beyond Sports Studies cuts are arising elsewhere in the university, with halls wardens under threat to be replaced with a widely criticised contract system, administration structures to be ‘repositioned’ potentially leading to greater admin burdens on lecturers, and staff cuts alleged to be on the way in chemistry, geography and humanities.  A recent claim in mainstream media of potentially 200 jobs to be axed has been refuted by the university, saying that these post cuts will occur voluntarily and through retirement, but this amounts to a similar outcome if staff resist being voluntarily moved on (especially in a job market with nearly all universities facing funding cuts).

The recent ‘strategic vision’ document released by the university (seen by The Blowhole, although access has now been limited) reveals plans of a university restructured to fit a more elite globalised corporate model by acquiring investment through research partnerships with private companies, cutting courses producing research which is not ‘world-class’ and acquiring 100 ‘world-class’ researchers (possibly using the money freed up by the slow-mo axing of 200 mere normal staff?).  Indeed, campaigners have pointed out that teaching quality seems to be rather low on the list compared with efficiency measures and getting big-name researchers.  Meanwhile, students at other universities such as in London or Sussex (where 6 students suspended by the VC’s decree over an occupation against cuts were reinstated following bigger occupations in reaction) are starting to take action to defend their quality of education and secure a non-privatised higher education.

Petition against the sports cuts here: http://www.gopetition.co.uk/online/34659.html

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