University College London (UCL) and the Institute of Education (IoE) have announced on Wednesday that they are beginning to consult on a proposed merger.
The consultation, which will last until May, comes after a report by Times Higher Education (THE) which revealed that staff at IoE had been informed of the plans at a faculty briefing on 5 February.
If the merger were to go ahead, IoE would become UCL’s biggest faculty, a follow on from a strategic partnership already formed in 2012.
However, concerns have already been expressed about the loss of IoE’s university charter, degree-awarding powers and of potential ‘asset-stripping’.
Even though UCL Provost, Professor Michael Arthur, has stated that IoE staff have been guaranteed that there will be no job losses in the first year after the merger with UCL, an internal report by the two institutions suggests that this may change later.
The report states that job losses may be a scenario in the long term owing to a “detailed consideration of the administrative requirement for the new faculty” that would take place after the two institutions combine.
Charlie Owen, president of the University and College Union (UCU) branch for IoE, stated they had no official stance on the issue but expressed concerns over potential job losses over the medium term as well as the sudden announcement, which had been discussed behind “closed doors” by the management.
This news follows a merger between UCL and The School of Pharmacy in 2012 which went ahead despite meeting significant resistance by the school’s staff.
The UCU launched a ‘Saving Our School’ campaign after a survey of just over half the school’s staff voted 85% against the decision.
In original minutes, the institution’s audit committee stated that the merger proposals “did not provide assurance that the project was adequately managed or resourced” and that there was “no coherent plan”.
Yet, three months later, the committee removed the most explicit criticism from the minutes after the governing council suggested that these “strongly held concerns” be raised with its chair.
Professor Arthur has said that the School of Pharmacy benefited from attracting additional investment whilst retaining its own leadership under UCL.
In regards to IoE he commented, “We are not a predator – we are a thoughtful academic institution that does things for academic reasons, not to make cost savings”.
Adrian Polglase, London Student: for Issue 7 (17/02/2014)