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Watch: University of Reading students protest against cuts

Students congregated on campus to stage an impassioned protest against cost-cutting measures at a meeting of University of Reading bosses on Wednesday.

Hundreds of incensed students gathered at the Agricultural Building shortly before a meeting of the university’s senate, to voice their objections to the consultation on Professional and Administrative Services (PAS).

The controversial £36 million review has prompted the university to adopt a new centralised operational model for administrative services and streamline those services by altering hundreds of job roles, offering voluntary severance packages and making redundancies.

But when student and staff members of the university’s main academic administrative body met at 2pm on Wednesday, March 9, they were confronted by some very vocal protesters.

The university is aiming to implement all of the cost cutting measures by Monday, August 1 but the Students Against PAS campaign continues to gain momentum as students demand the university to reconsider.

Student Louise Lawson said: “A lot of preparation went in to it, there were signs and a lot of chanting, the students are frustrated because of what’s happening at their school.

“We all got there around 1.45pm before the meeting started and waited around for about two hours while they were in there, there are actually photos of students doing work outside.

“We waited until they came out and some students even followed some of them [senior staff] down to Whiteknights House.

Student protest against PAS

“There’s a real feeling of frustration, especially after the consultation last Thursday when they made out like we are misinformed, we are not misinformed we have been uniformed.

“They keep saying its going to be fantastic for the student experience, but if it is so fantastic why weren’t we told about it?

“We are making it clear we are not going to go away and just accept this, we’re not going to roll over.

“But we are not doing this to just try and make a scene, we’re doing it because we care about the staff.

“The people who are making the decisions don’t know what goes on day to day at our schools. They don’t know what these people do but they have decided they’re not important.

“These changes are going to effect real people, some of them have been offered voluntary redundancies and we’re almost begging them not to take it.

“When I speak to alumni they all remember the admin staff and talk about how helpful they are.

She added: “My biggest concern is that soon I’m not going to know who to go to when I need help. “

The undergraduate also believes the campaign will not lose momentum when students break up for Easter on Friday, March 24.

Other undergraduates and post graduates are adamant the overhaul will be detrimental to the student experience as administrative staff provide students with a good level of support.

They are also concerned lecturers will be distracted when they have to take on the workload left by departing admin staff and some say the centralised systems which are already in place at the university are ineffective.

But the the university, which recorded a deficit of £14.8 million in 2015, refuses to apologise, it insists these changes are necessary and are in the best long-term interests of students.

It says the review, which is being conducted by PricewaterhouseCooper (PwC), aims to make services more efficient and cost effective and should save the university around £7.8 million when all the changes are implemented.

It states those savings will be reinvested into teaching and research.

A university spokesman also said: “It (PAS) is about saving but it’s also about having the right structure in place to underpin all the academics and research as well as the services we provide to students.

“Could we have done a bit better in consulting the wider student body? Yes.

“But the students’ message has been heard loud and clear.

“We are now providing the student body with information and working with Reading University Student Union to make sure all of the concerns the students have raised are addressed.

He added: “They (the centralised student hubs) are going to have to prove themselves and deliver, it’s the only way we are going to win over the students.”

Students protesting

The university originally stated up to 1,500 jobs could be impacted but that figure has since dropped to 900 and it is offering staff who face redundancies opportunities to apply for vacant positions within the university.

So far the university has also received more than 250 requests for redundancy quotations and 43 people have asked to be considered for redundancy.

As part of the restricting process the university has also matched people with new job roles which will be created, but 53 people have not been allocated a new position.

Students are also being told they will still have access to admin staff with specialist knowledge, but they will now be based at six central support hubs.

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