The shadow education secretary has pulled out of an event on Monday with the vice-chancellors of London South Bank and Aston universities over concerns that both institutions plan to close degree courses.
Kate Green, Labour’s shadow education secretary since June 2020, was unavailable for comment – but a source in the frontbencher’s office confirmed to University Business that Ms Green is “concerned about the impact of these cuts on job losses and is due to speak to both universities”.
Both universities have announced plans to close courses. Aston University is planning to close its Department of History, Languages and Translation, putting 24 jobs at risk of redundancy and 10 courses on the chopping block. LSBU plans to close seven courses in its Law and Social Sciences School as part of a universal ‘Portfolio Review’ of its 2022 curriculum.
The event organised by Public First – Truly Modern Technical Education – will coincide with a new report by the same name, co-authored by the vice-chancellors of LSBU and Aston and to be released on Monday, about the future direction of higher technical education.
Kate Green was due to join Prof Alec Cameron, vice-chancellor of Aston University, and Prof David Phoenix, vice-chancellor of London South Bank University, for a panel discussion chaired by Andy Westwood, professor of government practice at the University of Manchester.
The event comes as the government prepares its response to the post-18 review of education and funding, the Augar report, which is expected alongside the Treasury’s spending review later this year. The review sought to boost the availability of technical and higher technical education.
Both universities declined to comment on Green’s motivations for withdrawing from the event with their vice-chancellors.
UCU general secretary Jo Grady welcomed Green’s decision “as a show of support to staff and students”.
“We must not allow universities to throw their students, staff and local communities under the bus by ending valuable education provision,” Grady said, describing the plans as “a reckless act of academic vandalism” that threatened jobs. “I encourage others to follow Kate’s example and take a stand against universities threatening to cut courses or jobs,” she added.
A spokesperson for LSBU said: “We have regular discussions with government and the opposition. Unfortunately Kate Green MP, has indicated that she has had to with draw from our event on Monday. Ministers’ diaries frequently change and the reasons for the change would need to be obtained directly from Kate Green herself.
“Decisions around the courses we offer to prospective students are taken very carefully. We regularly consider how our courses provide students with the skills they need to enter high quality jobs or further study, previous enrolment levels and how they support LSBU’s strategic goals including social mobility and removing barriers to student success.
“Out of LSBU’s 7,000 new entrants in the 2020/21 academic year, less than 40 enrolled against the seven courses that are closing. We want to re-shape and re-energise our offer to strengthen our student’s teaching experience and research outcomes.
“Our long-term ambition is to increase total spend on LSBU staff involved in educational delivery by 2025. This includes increasing the quality of contact through small group teaching with a focus on ensuring students have the skills, experience and knowledge to progress to high quality employment or further study.”