University Post
University of Copenhagen
Independent of management


No miracles at the Department of Biology

The staff at the Department of Biology took it with a healthy amount of calm and gallows humour, as the Head of the Department explained that a lot of people will have to be let go for the second year in a row. DKK 16 million will need to be saved this time

»Can you hear me?« asks head of the department, Karsten Kristiansen the staff of the Department of Biology, tapping the microphone.

»Yeah, but we don’t want to,« is the immediate response from the hall, and people laugh quietly.

They know what to expect. They have got used to receiving bad news for Christmas. Last year 38 people were laid off, and it doesn’t look any better this year.

»It’s a terrible tradition, that we meet up at Christmas and I throw dirt in your faces, but there’s nothing else for it. We have to reduce our staffing,« says Karsten Kristiansen, and is met with silence. He continues:

»We have to safe DKK 16 million, and that’s painful. I can’t as of yet say how many positions we’re talking, but you can do the maths. We shouldn’t expect to be saved by a Christmas miracle.«

Again, no reaction.

An annual hammer

Staff rep Leif Søndergaard breaks the silence. He has heard rumours that 20 scientific positions and 8 technically administrative positions will be shut down.

He points out that firing another 20 lecturers would mean that 40 percent of the teaching staff would have been cut over the course of 2 years, and that this will have catastrophic consequences on research and teaching.

Karsten Kristiansen acknowledges that although the cut backs are painful, his hands are tied.

»The annual 2 percent cut backs from the government hit us like a hammer every year,« he says.

Cutting back at themselves

Kristiansen says that they can still offer an education of high quality, but that it will be difficult getting the timetables to work. Cutting down the modules might be a solution.

»We won’t lower our standards, but increase the understanding of the modules we currently have. The government wants mass education, so we will have to get people through the bachelor part, and then raise the criteria for masters – sort the good from the bad at an early stage,« says Kristiansen.

He adds that the small, specialised courses may have to be shut down.

A member of the audience says that they are in danger of ‘saving themselves to death’ – the head of the department agrees.

Nerve-ridden Christmas

The staff rep, Leif Søndergaard asks if a plan can’t be made as soon as possible, so they employees don’t have to have their Christmas ruined wondering whether they still have a job or not.

Karsten Kristiansen says it isn’t possible to come up with any names before Christmas, as they are awaiting a report from the university administration.

»I don’t know whether or not I should say Merry Christmas and thanks for coming, but I can’t say anymore,« he says, and switches off the projector with the bar graphs and curves of the department’s economy.

»And goodbye to the 20 percent of you I’m never going to see again,« whispers one of the employees to their neighbour.