University of Brighton University and College Union branch
Press release for immediate use


Brighton University staff vow to strike in defence of jobs.

The University of Brighton has announced plans to make 100 academic staff and 30 professional services staff redundant.

The University claims it is cutting staff because it needs to make £17.9m in savings. Yet the University has spent over £50m on building projects in the last two years. It is unclear who these buildings are for, if staff numbers are to be reduced by 130.

The University and College Union (UCU), which represents staff on academic grades, has vowed to fight these redundancies with every means at its disposal. Dr Mark Abel, UCU Chair and Senior Lecturer said, “This is a threat to the livelihoods of individual members of staff and a threat to the quality of education at our University. At an Emergency branch meeting this morning, our members voted unanimously to move to an industrial action ballot. Staff should not be made to pay for the failures of management”.

Staff are asking how the University has ended up in such a poor financial state. When joining the University as Vice Chancellor in 2015, Debra Humphris described the University as “a successful institution with a very exciting future”[1]. What has the VC done in her eight years at the helm to squander that future, in the process putting 130 jobs at risk?

Many examples of poor management can be cited. There is the £2.4m stolen from the University through internal fraud[2], and the buying back of a long lease from Virgin Active which cost the University £17m[3].

In fact, squandering money on expensive building projects seems to have been a priority for this Vice Chancellor. The most recent financial statements[4] boast about the high levels of capital expenditure, with £24m on the balance sheet in 2021-22 and £28m the year before, most of which has been spent on the ‘Big Build’, a development of high-rise buildings at the Moulsecoomb campus.

This is a terrible blow for our city where the University is a major employer and has the potential, if properly managed, to make an enriching contribution to the cultural, social and economic life of Brighton and beyond.

The huge spend on new buildings is part of a plan apparently intended to allow the University to “grow student numbers”[5]. But the student-staff ratio is already one of the very worst in the UK: 97th according to one source[6]. If anything, staff numbers need to be increased. To cut staff and also plan to increase student numbers is a recipe for disaster.

UCU Chair Mark Abel added: “The Vice Chancellor has consistently mismanaged this institution and is now attempting to make ordinary staff pay for her mistakes. UCU calls on the Vice Chancellor and the Senior Management Team to resign. If they have mismanaged the University to such an extent that these cuts are truly necessary, then they should take responsibility. If the Vice Chancellor insists on staying in post, the Board of Governors will be forced to consider dismissing her.

“Staff morale was already low before this announcement, with little evidence of faith in the senior leadership. A staff survey in 2018 found that 78% of staff disagreed with the statement ‘I see evidence of effective leadership from the University’s leaders’. Things have not improved since then. As staff, we have had enough. We have already voted to take strike action in two national industrial action ballots this year. We have shown consistently that we will fight to defend jobs and conditions and to protect the quality of education at this University. We will do everything in our power as a union to defend our members and this University from this attack from above”.


Notes for Editors

The University and College Union (UCU) is the main trade union in post-16 education in the UK. It represents over 130,000 academics, lecturers, trainers, instructors, researchers, managers, administrators, computer staff, librarians and postgraduates in universities, colleges, prisons, adult education and training organisations across the UK.

[1] https://www.brighton.ac.uk/about-us/news-and-events/news/2015/12-01-new-vice-chancellor-takes-office.aspx

[2] https://www.sussex.police.uk/news/sussex/news/court-results/jail-sentence-for-man-after-2.4million-university-fraud/

[3] https://unibrightonac.sharepoint.com/:b:/s/public/Ebn3ByOukz5EgD0-U2bpdAcBWhqoj_vNTdZxAeRjswP2fQ?e=WrIXQy

[4] https://unibrightonac.sharepoint.com/:b:/s/public/Ebn3ByOukz5EgD0-U2bpdAcBWhqoj_vNTdZxAeRjswP2fQ?e=WrIXQy

[5] https://unibrightonac.sharepoint.com/:b:/s/public/Ebn3ByOukz5EgD0-U2bpdAcBWhqoj_vNTdZxAeRjswP2fQ?e=WrIXQy

[6]  https://www.thecompleteuniversityguide.co.uk/universities/university-of-brighton

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