Union negotiates, confirming continued threat at Stirling

By Simon Barrow
August 28, 2015

The University and Colleges Union has confirmed that, despite some claims to the contrary, staff in the threatened religion department are still facing redundancy notices.

The union has been in active negotiation on behalf of the staff members, who are not allowed to speak publicly about their situation.

A UCU spokesperson told Ekklesia: "We are concerned that appropriate governance processes are not being followed, and that where significant changes are made to courses or subject areas there needs to be due consultation with staff, academic council and reporting to Court.

"The union is also concerned at the manner in which these cuts are being dealt with, and fears it may be replicated in other areas."

Academics and public figures across the world are asking the University of Stirling to reconsider proposals to close its teaching and research programme on religion and beliefs, which is the only one in Scotland developing an independent, critical perspective not explicitly linked to Christian theology.

Lord Sutherland, a leading British educationist and philosopher, who founded the religion department at Stirling before moving on to other prestigious posts, noted in his appeal for a rethink yesterday that the programme there reflects "the importance of understanding the place of religion in secular contexts in our national and international life."

The University has been seeking to deflect concern by telling those who write in that there is consideration being given to "the sustainability of religious studies" in the future, and that current students will have obligations to them met.

But further questions about what this means in practice are still being refused, and informed observers say that it will be difficult both to discharge existing (let alone future) responsibilities, and reverse the closure decision in the long-run, if experienced staff are made redundant or potentially removed on severance packages.

However, representations from the union, reasoned letters of support from all over the world, and a growing 38 Degrees petition – now standing at 1,250 signatories in a laittle over 48 hours – do seem to be offering positive leverage.

Those who want to see Stirling's religion programme continue say that University has much to gain from its profile and status and urge supporters to continue to make polite and informed responses.

Also on Ekklesia:

* Lord Sutherland appeals to Stirling University not to axe religious studies: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/22023

* University of Stirling to close pioneering religion department: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/22005

* Widespread dismay at university plans to end religion courses: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/22008

* Religion, higher education and critical thinking: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/22009

* Response but no clarity on Stirling University religion department: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/22012

* Petition launched to save religion department at Stirling University: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/22018

Ekklesia has a partnership with the Critical Religion project that originated from staff at the University of Stirling.

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© Simon Barrow is co-director of Ekklesia.

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