Open University staff plan second walk-out against centre closures

  • Staff will walk out tomorrow (Friday) for second time following university’s decision to push ahead with regional centre closures. Strikes are the first time staff have walked out in a local dispute in the university’s history.

MK’s Open University staff are set to strike for the second time against regional closure plans.

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) at the OU campus in Milton Keynes are taking part in another one-day walk-out tomorrow (Friday).

The plans to close seven regional centres is putting 502 jobs at risk.

They were approved at a meeting of the university’s council on November 24, despite widespread opposition from staff, students and politicians.

The Milton Keynes strike is part of a series of regional one-day walk-outs following a national strike on November 25.

Staff in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will also join tomorrow’s action.

The strikes are the first time staff have walked out over a local dispute in the university’s history.

Staff in the local offices evaluate and support students with disabilities, provide course materials, assign tutorial groups, run examination arrangements, advise on study options and manage the hugely popular degree ceremonies.

The seven centres earmarked for closure are in Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Gateshead, Leeds, London and Oxford.

UCU said that the closures would cause chaos for students and mean the loss of the university’s visible presence and local expertise in several English regions.

A petition against the closures has received over 6,800 signatures, and the university’s senate rejected the plans as “very high risk”, saying that they “failed to support the academic mission of the university”.

UCU Open University branch president Pauline Collins said: “Closing seven regional centres will lead to chaos for students and staff alike.

“We are deeply concerned that the university will lose not only a visible presence in many regions, but also the local expertise which has been built up by staff working in the regional centres.

“Nobody wants to take strike action, but we have no alternative. These closures are opposed by staff, students, and politicians alike.

“The university needs to listen to our concerns and urgently reconsider its position.”

UCU members will be picketing at the Walton Hall campus tomorrow on St Michael’s Drive and at the South West car park (see map) from 7am.