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Oxford University Press will do away with centuries of tradition by closing its printing arm

Oxford University was first given the right to print books way back in 1586. Sadly that centuries long tradition will end this summer as the publishing house has announced it will be closing its printing arm.

The closing of Oxuniprint will take place on the 27th of August and will result in the loss of 20 jobs. The publishing house says this sad move has been made due to a “continued decline in sales”, which was certainly not helped by the ongoing global pandemic.

When Oxuniprint closes it will be the final chapter in a centuries long printing tradition for Oxford, where the first book was printed in 1478, two years before the first printing press was established in England.

“Oxuniprint is the latest iteration of OUP’s print division which has been around for centuries,” said Dr Jude Roberts, chair of the Unite union branch at Oxford University Press. “The idea of Oxford University Press as a press has always been fundamental to what we do. It’s not just about the content, although obviously that is important, it’s also about the quality of our publications as cultural artefacts. It’s much more difficult to control that quality when the physical books and journals are produced by somebody else.”

The Unite union condemned the closure and blamed OUP’s increasing outsourcing to cheaper facilities abroad as the true reason for the printing presses financial problems.

“This is the final chapter in a distinguished printing history at the OUP, but we feel that there could have been a different outcome if OUP bosses had not been hell-bent on pursuing their outsourcing agenda,” said Unite regional officer Kevin Whiffen. “There is not much loyalty to the centuries-old printing heritage, and those who have given their working lives to it.”

Roberts also said that the 20 affected members of staff are in individual consultations about their futures. “The press has said that they are going to attempt to find alternative roles for them. But the fact is that the work that these guys do is so specific, it’s so highly skilled in this particular area, and we don’t do any of that work now without them, so it’s hard to imagine where they could be placed elsewhere in the press. It’s absolutely awful.”

A spokesperson for OUP said: “This decision follows a recent business review of our operations. This has not been an easy decision for us, and we thank the team for the support and dedication to OUP, and their clients, over the years.”

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