Page last updated at 13:13 GMT, Thursday, 12 February 2009

Uni to close social care school

University of Reading
The university said a final decision will be taken in March

A Berkshire university has proposed closing its School of Health and Social Care due to "great financial pressure".

The University of Reading has recommended closing the department as part of a move to concentrate resources on areas of academic strength.

The school, which has 350 students, would close in September 2011.

The British Association of Social Workers said the move may lead to a shortage of industry professionals in the county.

The proposal comes after an internal review, which concluded that the "strategic importance of the school is limited" and is "not predicted to change in the future".

One mature student, who gave her name as Kim, told BBC Radio Berkshire that she had completed an Access course and had been offered a place to study a degree in social work.

We are encouraged by the funding council... to concentrate on what we do best
Prof Marshall, university vice-chairman

"I've been working really hard," she said.

"I went to the interview last Wednesday for Reading [university], got a letter on Friday to say I had a place and then got a letter on Saturday to say they may close it down."

In 2006 the university decided to close its physics department to new students following a review, which concluded there was a lack of funding.

That followed the closure of the sociology department in 2005.

Professor Gordon Marshall, vice-chairman of the university, told Radio Berkshire: "We regret closing any activity at the university but the university is under great financial pressure.

"We have to make savings of many, many millions.

"We are encouraged by the funding council, which represents the taxpayers' interests, and by the university council itself to concentrate on what we do best.

"We have to protect the areas where we have excellence.

"The problem is that only about one quarter of the money we get is by grant from the funding council, we have to find three-quarters."

'Good reputation'

Dan Taylor, from the British Association of Social Workers, said there could be a "huge increase" in the number of vacancies within social services in Berkshire as a result.

"Because it has such a good reputation it attracts people from all over the country, many of whom will go onto jobs within the Berkshire region," he said.

"We are very concerned that the most vulnerable people in the community in Berkshire are going to miss out and not receive the services they should do."

In a statement, the university said it would continue to support existing social work students.

It read: "The university takes its responsibility to staff and students very seriously and their interests will be our priority during this period."

The recommendation will be discussed by the university senate and a final decision taken in March.

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