Protest at Open University in Milton Keynes on Tuesday

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University staff will protest on Tuesday against plans that could see around 700 jobs go at the Open University (OU).

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) will lobby a meeting of the university’s council in protest at plans that could affect eight regional centres across England.

Staff will be handing out leaflets to council members from 9.30am as they arrive for the meeting at Walton Hall; a final decision on the fate of the regional centres is expected at a meeting of the vice-chancellor’s executive in January.

The 676 staff in the eight centres cover jobs ranging from academics through to secretarial and support roles.

The UCU said the closures would be a real blow for the local communities and economies, and that the regional centres are vital to efforts to widen participation and that they provide crucial support to students from backgrounds with little or no history of university in their family.

Pauline Collins, Open University UCU branch president, said: “The Open University is respected the world over for the way it brings quality higher education to a wide range of people. At the centre of that mission are its regional centres and the dedicated staff who provide essential support.

“In these difficult times we should be doing everything we can to make university accessible to more people, particularly those who may be looking to study part-time. Axing eight regional centres and 700 jobs would be a huge blow for anyone wanting a second chance to get on in higher education.”

A spokesman for The Open University said:“It is quite wrong to suggest that 700 jobs are at risk at The Open University or that there are plans to close all our regional centres. We announced a project earlier this year to help determine the best way of delivering services to students across the UK. This work, with extensive engagement from many staff groups, is under way and is due to make an initial report in January. No final decision will be taken before a further period of university-wide consultation.”