The British permanent faculty system seems to differ from the US tenured system mainly in that in the former the management can 'fire' one on the basis of redundancy (What is the difference between permanent faculty positions in the UK and tenured faculty positions in the US/Canada?). How common is redundancy in practice in the countries having the British system (UK/Australia/NZ/Ireland)? Thanks, John

  • As far as Australia goes, I have not heard of a tenured professor being made redundant. It would be against the terms of theor contract. Source: Me. May 30, 2015 at 4:32
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    @Mothermole1, there is no tenured positions in Australia according to this answer: academia.stackexchange.com/questions/11785/… Also, according to one of the answers to that question, permanent faculty members do often get scrutinized by the management. I am not from that system so I do not know how rare/common that is. Any idea?
    – John
    May 30, 2015 at 5:04
  • That is not my personal experience. We have had many professors in our department who were ineffective, but due to their tenure, were not able to be fired, even though they were incompetent. It certainly does exist at my university. May 30, 2015 at 5:09
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    @Mothermole1, There seems to be recent redundancy drive by a major university in New Zealand which follows the Australian system stuff.co.nz/national/education/7476793/…
    – John
    May 31, 2015 at 21:42

2 Answers 2


Redundancies are a standard management tool in UK academia at the moment. A quick Google of the Times Higher Education Supplement suggests that there were about 1,300 academic redundancies in the UK in 2011-12, or an average of about 18 per Higher Education institution in 2011-12. At the moment a number of institutions are making compulsory cuts by closing departments. The University of Surrey is one example, as are Warwick and London Metropolitan. I'm sure there are others. The are also a lot of institutions looking for voluntary redundancies.

This all has to do with economic pressures, managerial/strategic rationalisation and either perceived student demand or disappointing internationalisation experiments.

Academic tenure, such as it was,was phased out in the UK from the mid 1970s onwards.


This article is relevant and interesting and summarises the nature of employment in the UK: http://simonbatterbury.net/pubs/tenurebatterbury.pdf

The current Systems Engineering department at Reading University (UK) is being shut down and the majority of academics there will lose their jobs. They are closing down due to not attracting enough students and funding, this process is standard here, similar to if a non-academic company/business shut down or down sized. Reading has had this problem multiple times, I don't know how it varies across universities but redundancies are clearly linked with the success of the department, something that could be investigated but not predicted before taking up an offer. At a well funded and stable university, redundancy is unlikely.

2010 Reading Physics department closure: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/6159106.stm

2015 Reading systems engineering department closure: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-berkshire-32978132

Australia: http://www.rsc.org/chemistryworld/2015/05/university-researchers-take-brunt-cuts-australian-budget and a very relevant article about the redundancy of an Australian university Professor who was reinstated: http://www.nteu.org.au/article/Federal-Court-reinstates-university-professor-sacked-in-sham-redundancy--14702 The article makes it very clear that Professors in Australia can be made redundant for financial reasons.

In NZ:
Government owned industry: http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/rural/275287/possible-job-cuts-at-agresearch

In NI: QUB's website details that academics can be made redundant. http://www.qub.ac.uk/directorates/HumanResources/PersonnelDepartment/EmployeeBenefits/PayandConditions/LeavingEmployment/TerminationofEmployment-AcademicResearchStaff/

In Ireland the system is different: http://www.eui.eu/ProgrammesAndFellowships/AcademicCareersObservatory/AcademicCareersbyCountry/Ireland.aspx "About 80% of the academic staff in Ireland hold permanent tenured positions. All full time academic staff are civil servants and tenured in the sense that they can not be fired without a serious cause, such as incompetence or outrageous conduct. This is very different from the systems of the UK and the US. For example, in the UK only about 55% hold permanent contracts and there is no tenure."

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    Note that AgResearch is a government-owned quasi-commercial research institute, not a university, and its staff aren't in exactly the same legal position as university faculty. Redundancy does still exist for both, as noted in another comment on the question. Jun 7, 2015 at 10:08

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