Open University staff press ahead with strike as centre closure plans firmed up


Hundreds of staff at the Open University (OU) are to press ahead with a strike following a decision confirming plans to close seven regional centres.

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) will stage a one-day walk-out today, followed by a rolling programme of regional stoppages from next week.

The OU's governing council confirmed it is to proceed with plans to create three larger student support centres, resulting in the closure of seven smaller offices around England.

Peter Horrocks, vice-chancellor of the Open University, said: "This is an important decision for the university and its students as it means we can now introduce much-needed improvements to our student support services - something which simply isn't possible across dispersed, smaller offices.

"No local services to students, including individual support for disabled students, will be withdrawn, however we recognise the impact this will have on affected staff.

"Our priority now is to maintain and improve services for our hardworking students while supporting our staff as we start to implement these changes."

Pauline Collins, of the UCU, said: "It is deeply disappointing that the university has chosen to push ahead with these widely criticised plans. The closures are opposed by staff, students, former students and politicians.

"The senate, which is the academic body of the university, rejected the plans as high risk and failing to support the mission of the university.

"Nobody wants to take strike action, but we have now been left with no alternative. The university needs to listen to our concerns and abandon these damaging proposals."

The union said more than 500 jobs will be affected by the closure of the offices in Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Gateshead, Leeds, London and Oxford.