Warwick And Queen Mary Universities To Share Lecturers

Warwick and Queen Mary universities to share lecturers

The Guardian World News |by Jessica Shepherd – Tuesday 20 March 2012

Queen Mary, University of London

Queen Mary, University of London, which announced a close collaboration with Warwick University. Photograph: Linda Nylind for the Guardian

Students at Warwick University and at Queen Mary, University of London are to share lecturers in what will be one of the closest alliances yet between two higher education institutions in England.

Academics at the two universities will teach each other’s English, history and computer science undergraduates from this autumn.

The universities will not be merging timetables in these subjects, but said this could be possible in coming years. In future, more subjects are likely to be jointly taught.

The two institutions, which are 80 miles apart, will also share teams that work on increasing the diversity of their student populations, and will work together on their outreach activities in schools.

They will conduct far more research together in future and are advertising for two post-doctoral research fellow posts, one in each university, to collaborate in the history of mental health, discrete mathematics, the renaissance, and functional molecular materials.

The universities denied that their “strategic partnership” would lead to a merger and said they would not be making redundancies as a result of it.

But Prof Simon Gaskell, Queen Mary’s principal, said the partnership was a response to the “high level of uncertainty” that had been created by ministers reducing public funding for higher education and raising the maximum tuition fees to£9,000 a year. Both institutions will charge the maximum fees this autumn.

The government has also made it more difficult to recruit overseas students, who pay higher fees than their UK peers.

Gaskell said many universities would respond to these pressures with a “fundamentally cautious approach”, but that neither Queen Mary nor Warwick intended to do so. “Critical to new approaches will be the achievement of the right balance between competition and collaboration,” he said.

Warwick and Queen Mary would continue to compete with each other, he added, but their collaboration would mean they could“serve a much wider community both nationally and internationally as well as ensure efficient and effective use of resources”.

The universities said the collaboration would lead to students being taught by an “even broader range of leading academics”.

The University and College Union, which represents academics, said Warwick and Queen Mary’s plans would have to be “considered carefully” to ensure they did not lead to “the heaping of more work on already hard-pressed staff”.

Sally Hunt, the union’s general secretary, said she shared the universities’ concerns about government policy and reductions in funding.

A report published this month by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, which hands out public funds to universities on behalf of the government, said institutions were being challenged “as never before to reconsider their fundamental role, market position, structures, relationships, partnerships, policies and processes”.

“They will need to continue questioning how they operate internally, engage externally with other institutions and organisations, and interact with the wider society. This raises the profile and potential relevance of collaborations, alliances and mergers,” it said.

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