You will be aware that in response to the volatility of student numbers and challenging economic conditions – including the reduction of research funding by approximately £2m a year as well as increased payments for USS and LPFA pensions – the College has embarked on a new project. Sustaining Goldsmiths. This is designed to produce efficiency savings and to secure a strategy for growth in order to produce a surplus big enough for the College to survive in what has become a highly competitive educational marketplace.
We too want to sustain Goldsmiths and to protect and develop the institution as a place that delivers innovative and radical teaching, that supports independent and critical research, that treats all its staff and students with respect and that commits itself to social justice in all its operations.
However we do not believe that a short-term, panicked response to the problems we face will help anyone. We are currently a facing a slew of restructurings, rumours and plans for rapid growth that are unsettling staff and that threaten to undermine the reputation that the College has built up in recent years. The College is effectively full up and we are facing a huge strain on our ability to support students effectively, for example given the pressure on counselling services and library space.
The College insists that we need to secure a surplus of 5% of turnover as recommended by Hefce. But the fact is that in the last ten years, we have achieved this just once (in 2013/4) – and this was only because of a one-off contribution to the surplus of funds designed for the VT assimilation process. In four of the last ten years, we have had either deficits or negligible surpluses and yet the College has managed to sustain itself through these difficult periods and to grow and consolidate itself. Indeed, the College has actually generated a total surplus of some £16.5 million in the last ten years and has doubled turnover in that same period. The most recent set of financial accounts actually boast that ‘Goldsmiths has significant resources including a positive balance of cash and investments of £35.6m’ and we all remember that the College felt confident enough last year to make a one-off payment of £300 to all staff to thank us for our contribution to Goldsmiths’ growth.
In these circumstances, any ill-thought through plans for rapid growth that can’t be matched by sufficient additional resources is dangerous. Any ill-thought through plan to merge Departments without providing staff with evidence of how such mergers will save money but nevertheless protect jobs and academic quality is counter-productive.
The students who occupied DTH – renamed by them the ‘Deptford Cultural Centre for Free Education’ – have raised a series of demands, many of which echo our concerns. In particular, we fully support their call for an ‘all-union committee’ to develop and monitor the Sustaining Goldsmiths plan, for any growth to be matched by sufficient resources and for an end to outsourcing.
In conclusion, we need a more measured response than the one that has been presented to us so far – one that involves both staff and students and one that is predicated on levels of financial transparency and democratic decision-making that we do not currently have.