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Departments could be shut due to HE reforms

By River Reporter Nov 22, 2012

Joe Stanley-Smith

Whole departments at Kingston could be axed as the university battles to cope with Government funding cuts.

The University faces difficult financial times after missing its admissions target by 580 students due to higher fees.

“There will be cuts, but it will not be salami slicing,” said Vice Chancellor Julius Weinberg during a Q and A session.

“We have to take difficult decisions, and some of those might be closing departments. To guarantee we won’t, would be daft,” he added.

Professor Weinberg, who recently joined Twitter as @juliusrwberg, refused to say that departments would not be closed in the next one to four years.

“If there are subjects which cannot attract student numbers, I have to make the decision whether to keep them open,” he said.

The VC said he was dedicated to preserving Kingston’s racial diversity. He said: “I don’t want to turn Kingston into a white middle-class university. That would be boring.”

The Vice Chancellor was also asked how he could justify cuts at the University when his own salary is so large – around £220,000.

Prof Weinberg conceded that with a large salary comes a lot of responsibility. He did however tell the meeting that he took a wage cut from his previous job as Deputy Vice Chancellor at City University to take the top job at Kingston.

Speculation has been rife as to how Kingston will evolve as a University to deal with the Coalition’s education cuts, with staff receiving an email at the beginning of the semester saying that cutbacks would have to be made.

University and College Union branch officer, Simon Choat, said: “I think it’s very likely that there’ll be staff redundancies at Kingston.” “That’s bad news for us but it’s also bad news for you [students] as it will mean larger class sizes, less contact time and staff who will be less motivated.”

More positively, dropout figures are substantially lower than last year as students paying £8,500 fees appearing to take their degrees more seriously, and there has also been good attendance at open days so far this year.

Towards the end of the Q and A, which was held during KUSU’s Big Student Meeting, Prof Weinberg was asked if he would commit to improving Muslim prayer facilities when Town House is replaced. One third of Kingston students are Muslims.

“Faith is important to a lot of our students. So is sport. So is art. I’m not going to privilege one over another.

“I have to treat all my staff and students equally. For some people, faith is what defines them. For others it is gender, sport or art. The problem for me is defining the level of resource. If I was to put more money into faith I would have to cut other things.

“Do I cut education, sport or childcare to support faith?”

This drew a large round of applause, however just an hour later during KUSU’s Annual General Meeting students voted to support a motion that the Students’ Union should lobby the university to provide better prayer facilities for Muslims.

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