AFTER protesters marched through the city centre over proposed staff cuts they describe as "utterly callous", the University of Chester says potential redundancies have been identified through a "transparent" process in response to falling student numbers.

Around 50 students and staff took part in the socially-distanced protest yesterday morning (April 26), initially gathering outside Chester Town Hall with their flags and banners before marching through the city.

The action came after more than 150 university staff attended University and College Union (UCU) Chester’s biggest ever branch meeting last week and voted overwhelmingly to pursue all means necessary to oppose the planned redundancies.

General secretary Jo Grady said both students and staff are "completely united" in their fight to prevent job losses – which the university say equates to 16.5 academic staff and eight professional services staff.

The university says the proposed redundancies are "in a small number of departments across its teaching sites where a downward trend in student numbers affects staffing levels required".

Chester and District Standard:

UCU Chester says the proposals are "completely unacceptable" after staff have spent the year working tirelessly to support students throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

It claims that the university had refused to share any financial information about why the cuts are needed, and that trust was at an "all-time low".

Jo Grady said: ‘Students are protesting these vicious cuts because they know how damaging redundancies would be for their learning.

"Staff and students at the University of Chester are completely united in fighting against the compulsory redundancies.

"For the university to try to sack staff after they have worked tirelessly to support students throughout the pandemic is utterly callous.

"Trust in senior management is at an all-time low after millions have been poured down the drain.

"If it wants to avoid further disruption, the university needs to step back now and work with us to halt these redundancies."

Chester and District Standard:

A spokesman for the University of Chester said: "The University of Chester has notified its recognised trade unions, the University and College Union and Unison, of possible redundancies in a small number of departments across its teaching sites where a downward trend in student numbers affects staffing levels required.

"The number of potential redundancies is as follows: 16.5 academic staff and eight professional services staff.

"The unions have also been advised of the outcome of the recent Voluntary Severance (VS) exercise in which we have agreed some 30 applications.

"For clarification, it is widely understood that 86 redundancies were not announced. This is the number of staff in the pools in affected departments.

Chester and District Standard:

"The number of possible redundancies was identified following a transparent business planning exercise using information available to our staff. All relevant financial information has also been shared with the statutory unions.

"Our commitment to excellent standards of teaching and research on our programmes and to the quality of the student experience remains unchanged. The University continues to recruit specialist staff into areas of growth.  

“The University and the trade unions are currently engaged in statutory collective consultation on ways of avoiding or reducing further the number of proposed compulsory redundancies and mitigating the consequences, for example, through new job-shares or redeployment within the University.”