As a former staff member of the Law School at Keele, where I spent a very happy three years working alongside PEAK staff, I am horrified and incredulous to hear of the proposed closure of what is universally acknowledged (except, it appears, by University accountants and management) to be an outstanding and indispensable research and teaching centre.
While working with colleagues at PEAK, I witnessed highly research-active and committed staff working long hours to deliver teaching programmes of outstanding quality, which were appreciated as such by the often professionally-qualified students on the programme. The research contribution of staff at PEAK is acknowledged by other academics in the field to be outstanding, which makes it even harder to understand why they were omitted from the RAE at last submission date. My incredulity at the proposed closure increased on reading the University's report to the Senate outlining reasons for the proposed closure. Even if the dubious financial predictions for PEAK are accepted, it is clear that PEAK will in fact shortly cover its costs! This is according to a calculation which (bizarrely) fails to include the £750,000 of research income generated by PEAK staff.
The University clearly has many questions to answer regarding this proposed closure. Why has the University (as outlined in a previous letter sent to you by Nafsika Athanassoulis) failed to account properly for the contributions made by PEAK to university income in previous years? Why has PEAK been selected for closure when other departments in similar financial situations have simply been asked to 'cut costs'? Why did the University fail to consult with its own staff before abruptly presenting these plans to the Senate?How can any University which places any value at all upon the intellectual contribution made by its own staff justify these plans? The current financial environment is not a sufficient excuse for the destruction of an outstanding research centre such as this; nor are the disadvantages accrued to it by a backlog of poor managerial and accounting practices, which have concealed its actual, significant contribution to the intellectual and indeed financial resources of the University.
The University of Keele wil impoverish itself in many ways if this closure goes ahead: economically, intellectually and in terms of staff and student morale. The current financial climate requires a just, careful and prudent response to the difficulties faced by UK higher education. Respected universities such as Keele have a duty to protect their best scholars, and their students, from brutal and ill-thought-out closures such as this. I hope that the plans to close PEAK, justly described as one of the gems of Keele, will be reconsidered and that the University will enter into open and democratic discussions regarding fairer and more sensible ways to distribute the burden of the current budget constraints.
Dr. Ruth Cain
Lecturer in Law
Kent Law School