Staff and students at Dundee’s two universities plan to unite for a campaign against the proposed merger of the two institutions.
Abertay University’s Students’ Association has already set up a “Hands off Abertay” petition website, opposing any move to merge Dundee and Abertay.
Staff unions are calling on business leaders, councils, politicians and the public throughout Tayside to back their campaign.
Dr Andy Samuel, secretary of the Abertay branch of the University and College Union (UCU), said: “The fight to block this merger has only just begun.”
Dr Samuel said staff at the university were still in a state of shock over the revelations that the two universities had been instructed by the Scottish Funding Council to enter urgent talks about a merger that could see Abertay, the smaller of the two institutions, being taken over by Dundee University.
He said: “The UCU, both in Abertay and Dundee and Scotland, are totally opposed to the idea of mergers.
“A small institution merging with a bigger institution is defacto a takeover. And that is going to result in redundancies which are going to have long-term economic problems for Dundee.
“We could be looking at huge redundancies and huge costs for the whole of Dundee. It would be a catastrophe.”
Dr Samuel claimed that the merger move also ignored the “enormous” contribution which the two universities, as independent institutions, have made to economic, social and cultural viability of the city.
“We have been looking at mounting a huge campaign in Dundee, involving most of Dundee’s civic society, the chambers of commerce, the trades councils, the councils, and a variety of other groups,” he said. “And the response so far shows, quite clearly, that there is going to be great deal of support.”
He added: “Staff have reacted to this news with shock and horror. Until now, ministers haveextolled the virtues of the two universities as two independent institutions, saying that what we are delivering is bang on what they are wanting universities to do. So this has come as a bolt out of the blue and we have no idea why it is happening.
“The complete and utter lack of consultation and the speed of things has been unbelievable.”
Janice Aitken, president of the Dundee University branch of the UCU, said: “Dundee is a fantastic centre for innovation and creativity. One of the cornerstones of our ability to deliver that innovation is the fact that we have two excellent and distinct institutions of higher education.
“The access to a wide range of courses afforded by these, as well as the quality and diversity of research, are essential to the economic and cultural life of the city and beyond..”
Hundreds of people have already signed the e-petition set up by the Abertay Students Association. It brands the merger move “unprecedented and highly inappropriate” and representing a “very real and tangible threat to Abertay’s future as an independent, innovative and excelling university”.