Meet the Manchester students campaigning against redundancies

Did someone say crowded lectures?

Everyone has seen the plans to build a new shopping complex on campus. We’ll be graced with the presence of an on-campus hotel, a Five Guys, and even a Pret. Expensive plans, but not for a University with reserves of £1.5 billion. You may have also heard that the University are planning to axe 171 teaching staff; they cited Brexit and “improving student experience” as their main motivations.

The departments under threat are the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures, the Alliance Business School and the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health. Biology students were already outraged as just last year the Faculty of Life Sciences was dissolved and Biology was merged with the medical school; they now face redundancies and further scaling down. And as for SALC and the Business school, between them they are set to lose around 75 members of staff. This means that some departments, such as the German department, could lose up to half of their teaching staff.

Seven language students have therefore voiced their extreme aversion to these plans. They felt that axing 171 members of staff would damage student experience as opposed to improving it. It is also suggested that these cuts would be detrimental to the quality of teaching at the University of Manchester. Losing so many employees would create a highly pressurised and stressful environment for the remaining staff which would then surely impact their teaching. The third year students – Katja Herd, Elizabeth Rushton, Rosie Wright, Abi Craig, Eleanor Hurdiss, Laura Jones and Joss Walton are so opposed to the cuts that they have decided to take matters into their own hands. In just four days they have created a petition that has (at the time of writing) over 2,000 signatures. They have also spread the word tirelessly on social media by starting the Facebook page: ‘Resist Restructuring Manchester’, tweeting multiple celebrities and prominent alumni including Professor Brian Cox, and sharing the petition withal eager to help. Mayor of Manchester Andy Burnham and journalist Frances Perraudin of the Guardian have also been in touch with the group. It just shows what you can do if you are really passionate about something. #grlpwr

The University had a surplus of £59 million in 2015/16 and as mentioned before they have reserves of £1.5 billion (£430 million of that being in cash)… #ballin’. It is therefore understandable that the students were saddened by the news of the proposed cuts as it meant that they will likely lose their much-loved and incredibly hard-working lecturers. There is widespread fury as there seems to be no financial need for these cuts. And as for improving student experience, it seems senseless to the students that such talented academics would lose their jobs in the name of student experience. Surely axing 171 teaching jobs would actually damage student experience – potentially beyond repair. £9,000 is a steep sum for a potentially sub-par education.

Lecturers are the backbone of a university – not a Five Guys. And surely in such uncertain times (cough Brexit cough), modern languages and the lecturers that teach them should be given immense importance. It is essential that we show the world that although we no longer want to be part of the EU we still very much appreciate other cultures and the best way to do this is learning to speak their languages. Impressing Merkel or Macron by having a generation of people who speak German and/or French fluently could only help us with Brexit negotiations.

But it’s not just languages at stake here. Instead of pricing students out of higher education we should be empowering our young people and preparing them to face the harsh realities of the job market and the modern world. Equipping them with knowledge of languages, humanities, sciences and business from a wide range of talented and devoted lecturers is surely the best way to do this.

If you would like to support the campaign against staffing cuts, you can sign the petition here.