Union enters into formal dispute with University of Wolverhampton in course suspension row

The UK's largest academic trade union has entered into a formal dispute with management at the University of Wolverhampton after recruitment to 138 courses was halted.

UCU has announced that they are entering into a formal dispute with management at the university.
UCU has announced that they are entering into a formal dispute with management at the university.

It comes after two weeks of growing anger and concern among students and lecturers, including accusations that the university was "trying to kill the arts", which account for a large proportion of the affected courses.

Branches of the UCU union at the university's Wolverhampton and Walsall campuses have now passed a motion to enter into a formal dispute with university management.

The motion calls for the university to cancel the course recruitment suspensions pending "meaningful" consultation with staff and students.

Furthermore, the motion urges the university to commit to the funding and organisation development required to recruit to these courses for 2023 onwards, and to adhere to agreed legal and internal procedures for voluntary and compulsory redundancy - including "meaningful consultation" with the recognised trade unions.

The university announced it was suspending recruitment to 138 courses earlier this month, as the university battles with a £20 million deficit and a 10 per cent fall in UCAS applications.

At an online drop-in session for concerned students on Thursday, deputy vice-chancellor Professor Julia Clarke said they could not afford the arts, and that performing arts courses needed to be sacrificed to allow the university to thrive.

Professor Clarke held another meeting with staff and students last week, where staff members in the art department told her that they "feel like the sacrificial cow" and said bosses were "ripping the heart out of the Arts School".

The university is currently refusing to publish the full list of courses which are halting recruitment for September 2022 - though some have been leaked to the Express & Star. The university says it has taken all affected courses down from its official website.

However, the 138 courses - which rises to 418 when taking into account variants such as part time courses and foundation years - includes all performing arts courses.

There has also been disbelief from fashion students that the course, which is ranked as seventh in the country according to The Guardian and has a student course satisfaction rate of 88.2 per cent, will not run for new students come September.

All students currently studying on these courses at the university will carry on their studies as the university vows to teach out the 138 courses.

As well as the disappointment in the halting of enrolment, staff and students have expressed anger at the lack of communication from the university.

"We found out from Twitter," and "we all found out from the press" were common complaints at a meeting with the deputy vice-chancellor as many claimed they had not found out about the change from the university itself.

Although Professor Clarke said all applicants had been contacted, as well as current staff and students, a student who had been offered a place on a postgraduate course said she had received no communication from the university prior to online announcements.

"You have broken this trust by making this announcement," one person said.

A University of Wolverhampton spokesman said: “The University continues to work with our recognised Unions as we progress through our recovery plan. Our focus remains on supporting our applicants and ensuring we provide the best possible experience for our students.”

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