Last Friday, 8 February 2013, students at the Lampeter Campus of the University of Wales: Trinity Saint David (TSD) conducted a sit-in protest. They were protesting against staffing cuts which they claimed were having a detrimental effect on their courses and studies. The protest was well covered on the Welsh-language Golwg website, www.golwg360.com, by BBC Radio Cymru and the Welsh language TV news and also on the BBC’s Welsh language news pages. Strangely, there was no mention on the BBC’s English language services.
There have been rumours about staffing cuts at the Lampeter Campus since before Christmas and the rumours were confirmed on the BBC Newyddion website on 3 January. The student protest on Friday is the first public confirmation that staffing cuts are being implemented. I saw one student being interviewed saying that his personal tutor had been dismissed and that there were many other students in the same position. He felt that his education had been affected as he faced his degree examinations.
Students said that they understood that during difficult economic times it may be necessary to make cuts but to make cuts part way through an academic year was totally unacceptable. They were protesting against the dismissal of staff during the academic year. I saw a senior member of the University management interviewed and he said that the students would have been in the same situation if a member of staff chose to leave part way through the year. This reply speaks volumes about the university’s management! The point is true, but that situation would have been something the University could not have foreseen. However, what has happened is that the University has taken deliberate action to dismiss staff during the academic year and this has had an effect on the student’s study experience.
On the Student Union website today I saw the Student President’s Blog where the President, Mattias Eken, reported on a meeting with members of the University’s management. The students had a number of demands and at the top of the list was a demand “that no more academic cuts would be made halfway through a year.”
The University representatives are reported to have replied “that they couldn’t guarantee that but promised they would communicate and intent to students that cuts were imminent should they find themselves in a similar situation again.”
How on earth could TSD management get themselves into this position of making staff dismissals halfway through an academic year? Did they not foresee the problems when they were planning their budgets a year ago?
When I looked at the Student Union website yesterday it was showing a video of another student protest calling on the Vice-chancellor, Prof Medwin Hughes, to take a cut in salary. Student after student was shown calling on Prof Hughes to restrict his pay to £140,000 pa for the next 5 years. I was under the impression that his salary was higher than this. I don’t know the outcome of this protest but there is no indication that it was successful. But by today this video had been replaced by another video.
TSD students will no doubt know that, since the invalid decision taken on 211 October 2011 to merge the University of Wales with TSD, that Prof Hughes is, in addition to being Vice-Chancellor of their own University, also the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Wales. In a Freedom of Information request to the University of Wales I asked whether the position of Vice-Chancellor was a salaried position or an honorary position.
The answer said that the post was a salaried position. However, since 1 October 2012 the costs of the Vice-Chancellor’s post have been borne by the University of Wales: Trinity Saint David.
The students of Trinity Saint David may be interested in knowing this.