• The Gaudie

Concerns Raised Over DHP Divestment Strategy

Leaked e-mail reveals management strategy to divest in DHP subject areas; Students left with fees paid and no supervision


By Matthew Keracher



Photo courtesy of The Gaudie.


Students arriving this term to study in the School of Divinity, History and Philosophy (DHP) will be victim to effects of a school-wide divestment strategy, which will see students paying fees for courses no longer running, and supervisors no longer employed at the University of Aberdeen.


In a school-wide e-mail chain leaked to the Gaudie, Dr. Paula Sweeney, Head of School of DHP, stated “no member of staff has been made redundant, sacked, or been asked to leave. In each case the motivating factor behind the individual’s decision to give notice has been different and is entirely confidential.”


The emails relate to the announcement, on the 4th of September, that Professor Stefan Brink (Scandinavian Studies) 'has given his notice to leave the University'. He is joined by Dr Zohar Hadromi-Allouche, Dr Jutta Leonhardt-Balzer and Dr Donald Wood from Divinity and Religious Studies; in addition, both Dr Dawoud El-Alami and Professor Robert Segal of the same department will be retiring this academic year.


Post-graduate students affected by the episode have been offloaded onto supervision staff with no expertise in the areas they study, while Master's students now have to audit foundation-level undergraduate courses to make up their programme credits.


In response to Dr. Sweeney’s e-mail, Professor Ralph O'Connor stated: “You have written that in every case, the decision of an academic staff member to leave this summer has been a ‘voluntary’ one, and that staff have not been ‘asked to leave’, ‘made redundant’ or ‘sacked’. This is helpful, but as you know it does not cover all forms of coercion commonly used during restructuring episodes at UK universities these days, and that in legal terms a ‘voluntary departure’ can include a departure which is, in practice, forced.”


As written in the e-mails, Dr. Sweeney stated that this was due to “an agreement of confidence with the members of staff who have made the decision to leave the institution.”

The episode is “part of a plan to restructure the School and disinvest in certain areas, reducing staffing costs in those areas in order to invest in other areas later on, against a backdrop of a large savings target.”


The effect of these savings on the student experience have resulted in the “the turning away of incoming PhD students, the cancellation of some of our most popular undergraduate courses, and the sudden reassignment of teaching to staff whose workloads already exceed the target agreed by this university.”


Any students enrolled on the MA Theology and Religious Studies, which was still being advertised as a broad programme covering 'religions of the world' this autumn, will find themselves restricted to a diet of Christian theology alone as of next year, regardless of their interests when they started.