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Comments on the Statement from the University of Bristol

by on May 17th, 2010

British Sign Language:

International Sign:


In reply to the statement:

Last Friday, 200 students, staff, and trade union members demonstrated to express their anger and outrage at the Senate decision, at the Council meeting last Friday. The key phrase that rang out loud and clear in sign language and English was:

“The World is Watching!”

It was a perfectly apt slogan, as has been shown by huge numbers of letters that were sent by students, alumni, parents, from Deaf community members, other staff in other universities all across the world, to the decision-makers at the University.

The University of Bristol has set out:

  • its Vision Statement (2009-2016) where it claims that it is “engaged with society’s interests, concerns, priorities and aspirations”,
  • its values where it highlights

“Diversity: We view the diversity of our staff, students and alumni as a great asset Equity: We believe in the equitable treatment of all”

  • and its contribution to “education and the student experience” where it describes the concern for the student experience and student views (and illustrates with a picture of a Deaf tutor teaching in sign language)

The University claims to be an engaged University where top level aims are

  • “Support and promote dialogue between staff/students and the public
  • Respond positively to community needs”

It is very hard to reconcile these aims and claims with the lack of consideration given to the campaign for the BSc in Deaf Studies.

When 4,668 people (so far) say “you are wrong, think again” it seems hard to figure out why their views were simply ignored.

When Deaf staff have given so much to the University and have created a Centre known throughout the world, it seems hard to understand how they have been pushed aside in disregard of the disability equality polices and practices required in the UK.

The University statement below re-iterates their plans as they were 10 days ago – nothing has changed, nothing has moved and nothing of your message has really been understood.

Compulsory redundancy still hangs over the heads of the Deaf staff – apparently to be decided upon later.

Suggestions that programmes to be withdrawn will be examined by Education Committee are somewhat grating, since Education Committee had the opportunity to consider the proposals on the BSc in the week before the Senate and Council meetings (and this was proposed) but at the last minute only received an update on plans to close, without the promised discussion.

With a vast groundswell of local, regional and international support for keeping the BSc in Deaf Studies, it is hard to figure out why there has been a stifling of discussion at the University Council concerning the plans to be voted on. We thought the university environment was one where ideas are there to be shared, discussed, debated; how wrong we were!

We will not give up the campaign: it will now move on to consider alternate means of dialogue and will report on progress as soon as we can.

Remember:  ‘The World is Watching’!

Council decision re. Faculty proposals for reducing staff costs
17 May 2010

At its meeting on Friday 14th May, Council, the University’s governing body, discussed proposals put forward by the Faculties in response to the need to reduce staff costs. The context for these discussions has been explained in a number of communications from the Vice-Chancellor and others about the financial pressures on the higher education sector in general and the University of Bristol in particular. The proposal from the Faculty of Social Sciences and Law to close the School of Applied Community and Health Studies (SACHS) and redistribute its academically and financially viable work, which was formulated on a different basis to the other Faculty plans, was also considered.

After a two-hour debate, Council agreed in principle to set up redundancy committees as necessary to implement the Faculties’ plans. In so doing, they endorsed all of those plans, including the proposal re. SACHS.

However, the setting-up of redundancy committees will only be progressed on the authorisation of the Chair of Council following a request from the Vice-Chancellor or myself. Whether such a request is made will depend on the outcome of the discussions that are currently taking place between the University and the trade unions about the proposed redundancy avoidance scheme. This is a proposal about which all members of staff were recently invited to express an in-principle opinion. The Director of Personnel communicated the outcome of this staff survey on 10th May.

The role of any redundancy committees would be to oversee the procedure and to review any potential redundancy cases. The committees would be set up in accordance with the University’s Ordinances and would have a minimum of five members, including at least one lay member appointed by Council and at least one member of academic staff appointed by Senate.

Council made it clear that, whatever follows, the University will be particularly concerned to do everything possible to safeguard the academic interests of its students. For example, any proposal to withdraw a taught programme will be examined in detail by Education Committee to ensure that the impact on our students will be minimised.

None of us would pretend that these are easy or comfortable issues, but as we have said before, we cannot shy away from them if the University is to come through these tough times in good shape for the future.

As you know, plans are being progressed to reduce costs associated with the University’s administrative processes. We aim to achieve a balanced and comprehensive response to the challenges that are confronting the University and the rest of the sector.

We will, of course, continue to provide regular updates for colleagues.

Yours sincerely
Professor David Clarke

From → Campaign News

One Comment
  1. Anon permalink

    I did not know that the agenda of the Faculty all along was to close SACHS. If this was the case, you were never in with a chance and all your jobs are on the line immediately, since CDS is in SACHS and the management would rather see it gone from their bottom line. It is not just about the undergrad degree.
    -I would look into legal breaches in the process. A lawsuit would seem viable, and is what the Uni does not want.
    -I would be inquiring into ‘alternative arrangements’ if you know what I mean – streamlining, moving Faculty, moving to another University wholesale……whatever works.
    -I would also immediately see, if you want to stay, if the supporters of CDS are able to assist with donations or pledges, or developing research/teaching partnerships if they are in cognate fields – this increases financial and intellectual viability and plugs the shortfall – useful of there is any chance of a reprieve. Or, a fund for legal services could be supported.

    -It may also be possible to introduce a new business plan for CDS through the Senate and get them to vote on it. It has to be good, viable, and meet the neoliberal expectations of lean efficiency. So many of these decisions are rushed through claiming financial panics, only to be regretted later.

    -The problem with the last Senate vote was that it was on a package of measures, not individual ones. The procedural shortfalls of the last process are also pretty obvious – Senate members were asked to vote on proposals that affected themselves, and thus the ones whose Departments were spared were likely to vote in favor of the cuts going elsewhere.
    -Anybody from Social Sciences and Law should not have been allowed to vote on a proposal that sacrificed one of their own Schools, without extensive representation from the affected party.
    -These matters should be taken up with the Court, which will be sympathetic to breaches or abuse of procedure, and impartial.

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