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Redundancies at South Bank from falling student roll . . .

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Staff and students at a university architecture school face upheaval after the threat of mass sacking of staff and strike action.

London's South Bank University is restructuring its faculty of the built environment because of falling student numbers. Rumours that all 105 or so staff members have been sacked and asked to reapply have been spreading like wildfire. The university says that redundancies will be nowhere near so drastic, but the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education is balloting members on strike action.

Jenny Golden, the union's regional officer for London and the South east, says that the university's original plans were to sack around 25 staff members and tell all staff to apply for the remaining 80 or so posts.

'Around 22 per cent of the staff is to be made redundant,' she said. 'It is awful that individuals may lose their jobs on nothing more than having a bad interview on the day. It is also morally unfair to have them reapply for jobs they already have.'

Tutors are being asked if they support strike action or non-strike action such as a paperwork boycott. Results will be totted up next week.

Falling numbers are only one of the university's complaints, Golden said. 'They say the staff-student ratio is 1/17 and in other parts of the university it is 1/26. This is a burden on the rest of the university, the leaders say, and they want more students per tutor.'

Gerald Bernbaum, vice chancellor, said that rumours of mass sacking were 'absolute and total nonsense'. 'There will be a need for more than 20 redundancies,' he said. 'Over the last four to five years the student population has dropped dramatically in civil engineering, town planning and quantity surveying.'

He hopes that the changes at the faculty, with 2000 students, would be done for the start of this academic year in September. 'Demand for architecture places is extremely strong and it is my guess that most redundancies will fall outside architecture.'

Kit Allsopp, head of the university's 400-student architecture school, said it was too early for details of the faculty's restructuring. 'This was a rumour put around, and at the moment there is no foundation in it.'

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