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CAPITAL-AND-CLASS  January 2008

CAPITAL-AND-CLASS January 2008

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Subject:

Threatened Job Cuts at Keele University

From:

Martin Upchurch <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Martin Upchurch <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 11 Jan 2008 11:16:09 +0000

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (1 lines)

Dear Friends, 
 
Threatened Job Cuts at Keele University 
 
As you may already know the Senior Management at Keele University, UK, have recently 
released details of a Consultation Document to introduce job cuts and course closures in 
the School of Economic and Management Studies. Alongside proposed cuts in the Economics 
Department, HRM/IR has been highlighted as an area of concern because of ‘disappointing’ 
recruitment figures and in particular attention has been directed at teaching resources in 
the subject field of Industrial Relations (IR). The University’s review claims that there 
is a need ‘for fewer staff and the need for different staff with the appropriate skill set 
to support the new structure’. It is further suggested, that of the 12 academic staff 
teaching in the area of Human Resource Management (HRM) and IR, 10 staff have ‘skills and 
attributes that do not fit with the proposed new structure’. These 10 staff are deemed to 
be qualified only in the field of IR, and by implication, do not have the ‘skill sets’ to 
teach the wider remit of HRM. Furthermore, the Consultation Document identifies that only 
three areas of research (Organisation Behaviour, Economics and HRM/IR) are active in the 
School, but that ‘they are small and not significant enough to support staff costs from 
research income’. The University is proposing job cuts and restructuring of courses 
throughout the School which will address these issues, with the proviso that redundancies 
will occur ‘where there is a clear business need to re-profile the skill sets as a basis 
for growth and vitality’. All the stand-alone courses in HRM/IR at undergraduate, part-and 
full-time postgraduate, certificate levels are to be abolished. There is only a small 
replacement window on the new courses. 
 
BUIRA (British Universities Industrial Relations Association) sees serious implications in t 
he proposed actions of Keele University. We fear that the University, while mindful of the  
possible need for course restructuring, is wrongfully advised to cut programmes and  
courses for which Keele has a deserved international reputation for excellence.  
In particular, we see the stated rationale for selection of the job cuts as an attack on the  
validity of industrial relations (IR) as a field of academic inquiry and teaching. 
In addition we find it disingenuous to suggest that individuals with 
a background of teaching and research in industrial relations do not have the ‘appropriate 
skill sets’ to teach HRM. Wherever HRM is taught in British Universities staff  are able 
to combine both sub sets of the discipline within their teaching portfolios. Indeed we see 
a healthy inter-linkage between the subject areas of HRM and Industrial Relations, with 
the two strands complementing each other and adding to the richness of the field of 
inquiry. Industrial Relations/Employee Relations has always been taught as a major subject 
area in the professional course of the CIPD. All of the major journals in the subject 
field (such as International Human Resource Management, British Journal of Industrial 
Relations, Human Resource Management Journal, Industrial Relations Journal) all regularly 
feature articles which could claim to be from either an HRM or IR perspective. Indeed, we 
would argue that the two subject areas cannot exist one without the other. Last but 
not least we can identify that the vast majority of Professors of HRM in UK universities 
live happily within the two sub-sets of academic inquiry, and that a great number of such 
professors might self-define themselves as industrial relations specialists. 
 
As the professional association representing over 670 industrial relations academics BUIRA 
is mystified by the interpretation of the subject of industrial relations contained in the 
Keele Consultation Document. We will give full support to our members in resisting what we 
see as a direct attack on the subject field of industrial relations within the University, 
and urge the University to reconsider its approach in the light of staffs’ 
undouwillingness to accommodate changes to their teaching portfolios.       
 
Please add you name to this statement of support for the threatened staff at Keele by 
emailing your name, job title and institutional affiliation to: Paul Brook 
[log in to unmask] 
 
 
Rosemary Lucas, President BUIRA 
Carol Atkinson, Communications Secretary 
Paul Brook, Membership Secretary 
Hamish Mathieson, Treasurer 
Linda Clarke, Executive Member 
Ralph Darlington, Executive Member 
Dave Lyddon, Executive Member 
Sian Moore, Executive Member 
Helen Rainbird, Executive Member 
Tony Royle, Executive Member 
Melanie Simms, Executive Member 
Martin Upchurch, Executive Member 
 
 
Rosemary Lucas 
Professor of Employment Relations 
Research Co-ordinator HRMOB Division, 
Manchester Metropolitan University Business School, 
Aytoun St, 
Manchester M1 3GH 
 
Direct line +44(0)161 247 3868 
Fax +44(0)161 247 6350 
Email [log in to unmask] 
 

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