ANGRY union officials have accused the Open University of a clampdown on protests against job cuts.

Last month it was announced that almost 500 jobs at the institution were at risk across seven of its centres in England, including 90 in Oxford, according to unions.

The plans have been described as “catastrophic” by the University and College Union (UCU), which represents staff at the institution.

The Open University in Oxford is based at Foxcombe Hall, Boars Hill, and if the centre closes staff would need to travel for an hour to reach their nearest site in Milton Keynes, 40 miles away.

More than 60 UCU members protested last Wednesday outside a meeting of the Open University’s senate at the Milton Keynes site.

Officials claimed a ban had been put in place which would restrict the number of protestors at any one time to 10.

UCU branch president Pauline Collins said: “This decision to clampdown on dissent in this way is quite bizarre.

“Treating staff like this is an insult to the 502 people who are worried they might be losing their job.”

The union has not ruled out industrial action.

An Open University spokesman did not confirm whether restrictions were in place, but said: “It was agreed with the unions that the location of the rally on the MK campus would be at the entrance to the university site, which would ensure against any staff or Senate members feeling intimidated.

“We offered that a delegation of union members meet with members of our Senate separately on the day, and also agreed for the union to have a stand outside the main catering facility at lunchtime. Staff were also being permitted to take leave should they wish to take part in the rally despite this not being official industrial action.”