More than 30 academics are facing redundancy at the University of Warwick following a decision to close its renowned horticulture research centre.
Warwick HRI, formerly Horticulture Research International, is to close its 192-acre site at Wellesbourne and transfer all its work and teaching in plant and environmental sciences to the main campus in Coventry.
The leading research university said it was taking the step, which will see a new School of Life Sciences emerge on the Coventry site from 2012, because Warwick HRI is making huge losses.
But the move will result in substantial redundancies among academic staff currently employed in the two departments. A university spokesman said: “HRI is making a pretty significant loss, currently £2 million. And that loss is projected to grow.
“We are a university, we don’t have shareholders and can only do research that is sustainable. We can’t continue to have £2 million a year or more being lost.
“The only way we can see this working is by putting the two departments together into a new School of Life Sciences. We intend to make savings by moving them onto the main site at Coventry as it’s an obvious way of saving money.”
Warwick HRI, which the university took over in 2004, uses internationally recognised scientists to develop pioneering areas of research and technology, solving major challenges in areas such as crop science, food security, bioenergy, systems biology and climate change.
The university spokesman added: “We expect about 55-60 academic posts at the new site and, currently, employ 89 people in the two departments.
“But we are in continuous consultations throughout this process. It’s a long process, taking us up to 2012, and if something comes along that says we can sustain something at Wellesbourne beyond that date, then we will. But the majority would move to Coventry.”
The move has drawn criticism from the Prospect union, which represents engineers, managers, specialists and scientists in both the public and private sectors.
Its vice-president, Nigel Titchen, said: “The university is ploughing ahead with an ill-conceived plan that will denude the UK of vital horticultural research capability at a time of widespread concern over food security. This decision is nothing short of scientific vandalism.”
The Wellesbourne site is based around a working farm with laboratory, glasshouse and field facilities, which are also used by other leading research organisations.