Oxford Brookes University Faces Backlash as Music, Maths Departments Face ClosureBy Joy Liwanag, UniversityHerald Reporter
In a startling move, Oxford Brookes University has announced the impending closure of its music and maths departments, sending shockwaves through the academic community. Staff at the renowned institution express their devastation and shock as the university takes drastic steps to cope with financial challenges and declining student numbers. This article delves into the details of this unexpected decision and its potential ramifications.
The closure of the music and maths departments signifies a significant shift in the academic landscape at Oxford Brookes. Beginning with the next academic year, both courses will not accept new applicants and will enter a 'teach out' period. This phase involves a staggered exit of staff members, allowing for the continuation of ongoing programs until all current students have graduated. The looming closure raises questions about the future of these academic disciplines within the institution.
The university's decision isn't limited to the closure of specific departments. It extends to a proposal to reduce salaried academic staff across several programs, including anthropology, English and creative writing, history, film, and architecture. This broader reduction in academic staff numbers paints a bleak picture for the overall academic environment at Oxford Brookes.
Financial Investments vs. Program Closures
The university's recent investment in a £130 million refurbishment program in 2016, spanning a decade, raises eyebrows in light of the current closures. With £1.6 million spent on enhancing the Wheatley campus, including library improvements and addition of a gym and student lounge, the decision to cut academic programs seems contradictory to the recent financial investments aimed at campus improvement.
Dr. Barbara Eichner, a respected figure in the music department, expressed the collective sentiment of shock and devastation among the staff. She highlighted the challenges faced by the subject nationwide and the missed opportunity for a proper performance space in the newly constructed building. Dr. Eichner also lamented the potential loss of ties with local schools and development of music programs, which could have strengthened the university's offerings.
The university claims to have proposed these closures due to declining student numbers enrolling in the affected programs. A spokesperson cited increasing financial challenges, including inflation, stagnant student fees for UK undergraduates, and rising staff pay and employer pension contributions. The university asserts that these difficult decisions are necessary to address financial constraints and ensure the institution's sustainability.
Concerns from Stakeholders
MP for Oxford East, Anneliese Dodds, expressed deep concern about the closure of both mathematics and music departments. She urged the university to consider the impact on staff in these subject areas, recognizing the challenging times ahead for those affected. Dodds' intervention highlights the broader implications of these closures on the local community and academic landscape.
As the consultation period with staff unfolds, the future of the affected academic departments hangs in the balance. The closures have stirred a sense of loss and concern within the university community, with Dr. Eichner succinctly capturing the sentiment: "These closures will make the whole community poorer." As Oxford Brookes navigates the difficult path ahead, the impact on staff, students, and academic legacy of the institution remains uncertain.
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