Oxford University to cut 40 per cent of oncology experts amid claims it now sees cancer as ‘low priority’

Oxford University is to cut 40 per cent of its oncology experts in a restructuring, amid claims the institution now sees cancer research as “low priority”.

Staff at the university’s Department of Oncology have been told that 81 roles will be vacated by Christmas due to a shortfall in external funding.

The “devastating” move will affect principal investigators, research support groups, scientific research facilities, and administration and finance at the world-leading institution.

Senior researcher Anderson Ryan, who has worked at the clinic for more than a decade, said it was a “kick in the teeth” to scientists who have ”dedicated their lives to helping people”.

“Sadly, this news suggests that the university sees cancer research as a low priority for its own investment going forward, and I am concerned that this may eventually undermine Oxford’s ambition to remain the premier place in the world for medical research,” he said.

“Oxford is supposed to be world-leading, not penny-pinching. In two years time this will come back to bite us.”

Professor Ryan said the Covid-19 crisis had contributed to the decision to make redundancies. However, the university said the pandemic had nothing to do with the cuts and staff were informed about the restructuring on Feb 27.

The Department of Oncology employs 400 staff and more than 120 postgraduate students – both clinical and non-clinical – and is one of the largest departments within the University of Oxford’s Medical Sciences Division.

The university said in a statement: “Oxford University’s Department of Oncology is proposing changes to its structure to reflect an ongoing shortfall in external funding for the department, and has identified the need to reduce staff numbers.

“Like all academic departments, Oncology obtains a significant proportion of its funding from grants for specific research projects, which can lead to significant fluctuations over time.

“The decision to restructure has been made in line with the department’s new Scientific Strategy to focus more on key areas of cancer research.

“The department has written to all of its staff about these proposed changes and is working with those who will be affected to help them find other roles within the University, as well as consulting with unions throughout the process.

“Cancer research at Oxford is carried out across a number of departments and schools. The proposed changes in the Department of Oncology will not impact the quality of the University’s ongoing research in this vital field.”

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