Response to the University of Bristol’s Statement
Those people who have taken the time to write to the University of Bristol, have received a reply. The official University reply has been broken down below (in itallics), and underneath is what we believe the reality to be.
The University is in the process of deciding whether to withdraw its BSc in Deaf Studies. Even if the degree is withdrawn, current students and those offered a place from October 2010 will be able to complete their studies. The programme, which has recruited 15 students a year, will continue to be taught until June 2013 and there should be no significant impact on the students concerned. There is no proposal to close the Centre for Deaf Studies.
The guarantee of continuation is empty because the staff are threatened with compulsory redundancy. There will be no staff to teach this programme to 2013, unless the University removes the threat to sack them. The proposals affect 75% of staff at CDS i.e. most of the Deaf staff and interpreters. It is unbelievable that these proposals as they stand will not have significant impact on students.
Last autumn, the Faculty of Social Sciences and Law (FSSL) commissioned an expert review of its School of Applied Community and Health Studies (SACHS), of which the Centre for Deaf Studies (CDS) is part. The review panel included specialist external academic input.
The Faculty’s decision to propose the withdrawal of the degree in Deaf Studies has been informed by the panel’s conclusions, as well as by a series of reports commissioned by CDS, which highlighted the need to ‘re-think the programme’, particularly with regard to market fit and career preparation.
There were no experts. There were no deaf representatives on the panel and there was no one who could actually communicate with the Deaf staff who were interviewed. There were no external experts in the Deafness field involved in this review.
There are no series of studies. CDS interviewed its alumni in order to develop the programme for the future – a vital and normal strategic operation – which was provided to the review in good faith to demonstrate its forward thinking.
Academic quality and financial viability were the main considerations.
The supposed rating of academic quality is based on a single year unreliable sample of less than 20 people; Over 3,500 people have signed up to affirm the quality and significance of this programme.
At no point, was there an analysis of financial viability of the BSc. CDS offered its own business plan for future development. This has never been examined despite the report recommending that it should.
The suggestion that the BSc in Deaf Studies be withdrawn is one of a range of proposals that has emerged from the FSSL after months of careful analysis and discussion.
Throughout the process, the FSSL has maintained, and will continue to maintain, an open and constructive dialogue with SACHS, including CDS.
The suggestion that the BSc be withdrawn was made over a period of two weeks during the Christmas break and was distributed to the Faculty without the promised consultation. CDS have spent several months rebutting the flawed conclusions.
No alteration to the position presented in the original hastily prepared report is evident from this ‘dialogue’. In fact, the problem has been made worse by a confounding of the report with the University’s financial worries.
In common with the rest of the University, the FSSL has had to consider how it can reduce costs while ensuring that its overall academic vision and standards are maintained and enhanced. The University as a whole has to reduce its annual costs by £15 million if it is to achieve financial sustainability. That figure could rise if there are further cuts to higher education nationally.
At no point, in the process has an analysis of the cost of the BSc been offered. If we examine the cost of staff affected by these cuts, less the income they generate from the teaching the course (never mind their other research), the shortfall is less than £100k. This is hardly going to save the University £15m.
CDS have already budgeted to remove this £100k shortfall in the coming year.
If the proposal to withdraw this degree goes ahead there will be a risk to some jobs, but the University is committed to avoiding compulsory redundancies wherever possible.
This contradicts the statements and papers presented to staff and the open meeting with the Dean in April, where it was specifically indicated that compulsory redundancies are to be found at CDS in SACHS.
It should be stressed that there is no proposal to close CDS and that support will be given to ensure the continued development of the internationally recognised research conducted by staff in the area of Deafhood Studies, underpinned by the continuation of the MSc in Deafhood Studies and the Centre’s PhD student programme.
CDS will welcome this support although at this time it is unclear what this support is meant to be.
Nobody at the University takes any pleasure in having to identify such substantial savings, in potentially withdrawing programmes, in disappointing internal or external stakeholders, or in putting jobs at risk. At the same time, the University has no option but to put its operations on a more secure financial footing. It must also ensure that its high academic standards are maintained. To shy away from difficult decisions that arise from these imperatives would not be in anyone’s long-term interests.
It is clear that the University has entered into extensive financial commitments which are creating problems. However, it does no good to the reputation of the University or to the city of Bristol, to seek to cut the sections of its provision which are most outwardly looking, which serve the community most directly (with particular emphasis on Deaf and Deafblind people), which offers training to hearing people to work within the community and which significantly is staffed by Deaf people.
The University’s Vision proclamation on its website promotes the inclusion and diversity agenda, pledging itself to public engagement. It makes no sense to cut the most advanced direct public engagement programme. It makes no sense to directly target Deaf staff who will bear the brunt of the cuts. It makes no sense for the University to put its students at risk and to fly in the face of the intense public response from all over the world.
For further information, contact Barry Taylor, Communications Director.