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University of Chester drops plan for theology redundancies

11 June 2021

University of Chester

Staff from the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Chester

Staff from the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Chester

PLANNED redundancies in the University of Chester’s Department of Theology and Religious Studies are no longer being sought, the department has said.

A tweet posted by the department at lunchtime on Friday said: “We’re relieved to hear that compulsory redundancies are no longer being sought in our department. During this difficult time, we’ve been deeply grateful for the support and affirmation of our work from our students and external colleagues.”

A tweet from the University of Chester branch of the University and College Union, on Friday, said: “The University of Chester has withdrawn the risk of redundancy from staff in three departments: English, Theology & Geography. Staff in other areas remain at risk, so our fight to oppose compulsory redundancies will continue with the same level of determination.”

At-risk notices of compulsory redundancy were issued to ten members of staff in Chester’s TRS department on Maundy Thursday. Later that month, more than 800 religious leaders and academics signed a letter that urged the University to halt an “unnecessary act of vandalism” (News, 23 April).

The letter, sent to the President of the University Council, the Chancellor, the Vice-Chancellor, the president of the Students’ Union, and the Bishop and Dean of Chester, argued that the redundancy notices issued to the ten remaining academic staff in the faculty would harm the university’s reputation both nationally and internationally.

The letter, organised by TRS-UK — TRS departments’ professional association — was signed by members of every TRS department in the UK, as well as institutions across the Continent and the United States.

The former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Williams, who is a visiting professor at the university, was one of the signatories.

The University of Chester has an Anglican foundation, originally as the Chester diocesan teacher-training college in 1839, and is a member of the Cathedrals Group of universities. The Bishop of Chester, the Rt Revd Mark Tanner, and the Dean of Chester, the Very Revd Dr Tim Stratford, are both foundation members of the University Council.

Dr Wendy Dossett, Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Chester, tweeted on Friday: “We’re relieved, bruised, and standing in solidarity with colleagues still at risk in @uochester and elsewhere. Long fight ahead. Sincere thanks to all who’ve supported us.”

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