LECTURERS at Winchester University are voting on whether to strike after jobs were put at risk last month.

THE University and College Union (UCU) confirmed that its members at Winchester University are being balloted for strike action.

As previously reported, a spokesman for Winchester University last month said 118 members of academic staff have been "invited to consider voluntary severance", although the spokesman added the university is looking to cut between 30 and 40 full-time equivalent (FTE) posts.

Since then, the union said it received a letter from the university, setting out plans for 55 job losses, 48 of which were classed as academic and research posts.

According to the union, the reason behind the decision was due to the university “facing a serious financial challenge, arising mainly from the unexpected large increase in employer contributions to the Teachers’ Pension Scheme”.

Daily Echo:

UCU acting general secretary Paul Cottrell said: "Winchester University faces strike action if it refuses to rule out compulsory redundancies. There is no need for this knee-jerk reaction to changes to pension costs and this strike ballot should act as a warning to other universities tempted to use the changes to axe jobs.

"Universities need to work with us to get the government to fund pensions for university staff, not put staff jobs or opportunities for students at risk."

The news comes after around 100 students staged a protest at the university's Sparkford Road campus in March over the planned cuts.

The protest was organised by third year drama student, Lottie Dean-Clist, who said: “The way the redundancies have only just been announced made it more of a shock for all of us. It seems like the whole thing was covered up and silenced before this.

“After the news escaped, tensions rose and its been affecting learning since – it just feels like its opened a new world of stress.

“I’ve always been taught to use my arts training as a transformation tool, so making my own demo felt right.

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"Around 100 people turned up and it felt fantastic. I’d imagine everyone else is very upset.”

Another student, Samuel Morton, said the cuts would “have a profound impact on the quality of teaching for current and future students”.

Speaking at the time, a Winchester University spokesman said: “Like many other institutions within the higher education sector, the university is having to rebalance staffing.

“Members of staff from across the institution have been invited to consider voluntary severance under the scheme, with a view to reducing between 30-40 full time equivalent posts.

"We hope to secure these by offering voluntary severance terms.”

The strike ballot, which opened on Tuesday, will close on Thursday, May 9.

A university spokesman said: "Like many other institutions within the higher education sector, the University of Winchester is looking to rebalance its portfolio and associated staffing and resources. This comes at a time when the university, and the sector as a whole, are facing financial challenges. Unlike many other universities, to date we have held off having to rely on redundancies to balance budgets.

"In early March we put in place a voluntary severance scheme, with a view to reducing between 30-40 full-time equivalent posts. 118 academic staff from across the institution have been invited to consider voluntary severance.

"We remain hopeful that we will secure the required savings through voluntary means and should be in a position to confirm this by the end of April.

"With regard to the UCU ballot, the University respects the right of all trade union members to take part in peaceful industrial action. We hope that support for students and key university activities will be a consideration for members when deciding whether to participate."