Academics and professional services staff at Goldsmiths have voted to strike for three weeks after the university announced sweeping cuts in two departments.

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) at the university voted by 86 per cent, on a 70 per cent turnout, in favour of taking industrial action from November 22.

A total of 52 employees, 20 lecturers in the English & Creative Writing and History departments, along with 32 professional services staff, will be made redundant early next year if the New Cross university’s latest cost-cutting measures are implemented.

Tara Povey, co-president of Goldsmiths UCU, herself a History lecturer threatened with redundancy, said: “These redundancies would cause administrative chaos, harm students, and ultimately cost much more than they would save.

"They are also an attack on two distinctive and special academic departments - departments that established the world’s first MA in Queer History and UK’s only MA in Black British History as well the world’s first MA in Black British Literature.

News Shopper: Goldsmiths UCU staged a protest earlier this month (GUCU)Goldsmiths UCU staged a protest earlier this month (GUCU)

"The cuts to professional services (including staff in timetabling, student support and other areas) would harm students at a time when the pandemic is already making university stressful.

"Rather than submit to the demands of private banks, management should be working with staff and students to develop a fair, sustainable way to improve the College’s finances. We are ready to negotiate if management is prepared to promise no compulsory redundancies.”

More than 2,000 academics, researchers signed a letter last month calling on Goldsmiths to "halt the decimation” of the departments.

The signatories, from institutions across the world, claim the integrity of the departments is under threat, suggesting senior management plans to replace specialised academics with "cheaper, precarious staff", or staff members with different areas of expertise.

More than 100 professional services staff members, who support students in a non-academic capacity, were sent letters in September informing them that their jobs were at risk.

The signatories claim their roles are being cut as part of a wider move to centralise administrative staff currently based in specific departments, disregarding their "crucial expertise."

Goldsmiths UCU, which represents both academic and non-academic staff, claims the university entered into a multi-million pound loan deal with Lloyds TSB and Natwest on the condition that it makes deep cuts to address its deficit, which is thought to be in excess of £10 million.

The union is calling for senior management to “open the books” so alternative solutions can be explored.

Members of the union across London also voted in favour of strike action as part of a long-running row over pensions.

A spokesperson for Goldsmiths, University of London, said: “We have always been clear that we respect the right of colleagues to take industrial action.

"However, we appealed to colleagues at Goldsmiths not to vote in favour of industrial action considering the effect it could have on our students on top of impacts from the pandemic.

“The reality remains that Goldsmiths must deal with significant financial challenges including an underlying deficit, over £10m of additional costs and lost income due to Covid-19, government cuts that will see the College lose over £2m in funding every year, and a decline in the overall number of students studying some subjects.

“Goldsmiths believes all our colleagues deserve good pensions which is why we already pay over £10m per year into USS, a scheme with an average retirement income of £19,000 a year, and we simply cannot afford to contribute more.

“We will do everything we can to support our students through this period of change as we implement a recovery plan to put the College back on a sustainable financial footing.

We want to reassure our students that we are putting their learning, their experience, and their outcomes first as we build a new and sustainable future for the College.”

Have you got a story for us? You can contact us here.

Follow us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram to keep up with all the latest news.

Sign up to our newsletters to get updates sent straight to your inbox.