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Staff informed of Life Science budget woes

As cuts loom, staff gave voice to worries at Faculty of Life Sciences information meeting

[After this article was published, one of the participants at the event, Louise Edjabou, said she was misquoted. In agreement with the reporter and her, we have edited out the offending quote. We apologise…ed.]

For almost an hour, Erik Bisgaard, Associate Dean for Research at the Faculty of Life Sciences (LIFE) was forced to field questions from the concerned crowd.

The Faculty has suddenly become the frontline of University of Copenhagen cutbacks, with fears voiced that up to a hundred staff will have to go. Wednesday, at the Faculty information meeting, the words, and thoughts, of those present were about where the axe will fall.

Three years worth of budget cuts are to be introduced. The only trouble is that the three years’ worth are to be with immediate effect.

See pictures from Wednesday’s Life Sciences budget meeting here.

Saving to no avail

Staff had gathered to find out more.

After the auditorium debate, Louise Edjabou, who works and studies at the Faculty, queried the use of past surpluses. Faculties are not able to use saved funding.

»What good are savings if you can’t use them in a crisis?«, she said to the University Post reporter.

Read the article ‘Staff reject layoffs in budget proposal’ here.

Job losses still uncertain

The fact of the matter is, a DKK 250 million reduction in government funding next year will dramatically alter the way that all Danish universities are run. But the Faculty of Life Sciences at the University of Copenhagen will be particularly hard hit.

Departments at the Faculty of Life Sciences have now submitted their suggestions on how to manage their own cuts. And they are to be put into action by early 2011.

It is still unclear precisely how many members of staff will lose their job. But among those who gathered to hear the new budget measures explained in depth, there were fears that anything up to one hundred of their colleagues may be considered surplus to new requirements.

High costs of ‘elite’ research

According to the Frequently Asked Questions sheet on the Faculty website, the majority of budget savings will be ‘payroll cuts’, a euphemism for staff cuts.

The cuts are a necessary part of a DKK 48 million reduction in costs that the Faculty of Life Sciences must face up to, the faculty’s management says. More specific information will only become available as each department’s proposals are reviewed.

One contentious issue, which has already been decided on, is the safeguarding of resources for ‘elite’ research departments. The Faculty claims that these areas should be protected to maintain the high academic status of the Faculty, and its ability to attract students and funding in the longer term.

However, as this reporter observed the debate, the way in which preferential funding will be decided remains unclear. And among staff there are concerns about the transparency in deciding how departments retain or lose their resources.