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London’s Goldsmiths University.
London’s Goldsmiths University.

Protesting Goldsmiths’ Planned Restructuring, Lecturers Halt Student Assessments

Anticipating a restructuring that will lead to layoffs, lecturers at Goldsmiths, one of the UK’s most prestigious art schools, voted in January to pursue an “action short of a strike,” or ASOS, and have ceased performing assessments of undergraduate and graduate students enrolled at the London college. The lecturers are additionally refusing to teach face-to-face, and have announced that they will not cover for absent colleagues or work overtime.

The decision was taken January 4 by Goldsmiths University and College Union (GUCU), which represents most academic staff, and is meant to put pressure on the college’s senior management team, over their “failure to ensure [Goldssmiths academic staff] that they will not be left jobless in the midst of a pandemic,” said the union in a statement. Goldsmiths, which is part of the University of London, hired outside management consultants KPMG to perform an assessment of the college’s 2019 deficit of nearly $11 million. Though the firm’s report has not been made public, it allegedly revealed that the deficit was “largely a result of excessive capital expenditure” between 2015 and 2018 “and an increase in staff costs,” according to GUCU.

The union contends that the firm “sees Goldsmiths as a successful institution that has increased its market share over the last five years.” Among the union’s demands are total transparency in regard to the intended restructuring plan, and an assurance that there will be no layoffs in the next two years. Speaking with The Art Newspaper, an anonymous lecturer voiced concern that Goldsmiths management aims, through cuts to staff and departments recommended by KPMG, to “transform Goldsmiths from a research-and-teaching high quality university, into a cut-price teaching-dominated college.”

A spokeswoman for the college defended its cost-cutting efforts, noting, that the school “is facing very significant financial challenges from a range of factors including the impacts of Covid-19. Though she allowed that the college faced some “tough decisions,” she insisted that “redundancies [are] always [Goldsmiths’] last resort.”