Author Topic: University Challenged  (Read 45030 times)

Attila

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Re: University Challenged
« Reply #150 on: May 11, 2020, 03:58:41 PM »
Mmm, yummy -- long, detailed, multi-layered bullet-pointed email just now from the dean about recruitment, about financial issues, and about teaching online in the autumn.

Cool part is how, quietly embedded in this email, is the omnious 'we are looking into how to relief financial issues by looking at where we can cut staffing.'

It's subtle, and it's deeply buried inside one of his very long bullet points.

Great.

Blue Jam

  • Last of the great avuncular magicians
Re: University Challenged
« Reply #151 on: May 11, 2020, 04:01:45 PM »
Just heard lots of stuff about how the building I work in is now a "Covid Hub" and how we'll need to separate the Covid researchers from us non-Covid researchers.

Preparing to get massively lorded over in a few weeks' time.

Re: University Challenged
« Reply #152 on: May 11, 2020, 04:16:17 PM »
We're starting furloughing this week, not sure it applies to many staff though. We're not in any massive building programmes (that aren;t underwritten by ScotGov) so there's less panic than others. Hearing rumours about Glasgow being in a bit of difficulty but we'll see how that plays out.

No immediate plans to reopen campus yet but I guess all Scot Unis will be in sync soon enough (apart from HIU maybe).

 

Norton Canes

  • Pick up the pace with your cracked-out face
Re: University Challenged
« Reply #153 on: May 11, 2020, 04:17:02 PM »
I don't know how I'm going to process my massive data files without my big powerful custom-built computer

This is the big problem for me, I do development work so have a machine on campus with commensurate power but the PC I've got at home is slow AF so the work takes far longer to do.

Also the university don't want us using buses or doing car shares

Ours has spent the best part of the last couple of years encouraging car shares and the use of public transport by massively ramping up their on-campus parking fees. Post-lockdown they've put all fees on hiatus but can't see them remaining at zero when hundreds of employees start driving their cars in again.

Just heard lots of stuff about how the building I work in is now a "Covid Hub" and how we'll need to separate the Covid researchers from us non-Covid researchers.

Preparing to get massively lorded over in a few weeks' time

So many office spaces in the older buildings here will be massively and irrevocably unfit for purpose if the Uni adhere strictly to safe working guidelines. No chance of two-metre spacing around desks or individual work separated by screens. Got a horrible feeling that what they'll do is commandeer the biggest indoor open spaces they've got, like the Great Hall, and pack as many partitioned worker-cells in there as possible.

No word yet from the top brass on exactly how they intend to progress things, though.

Blue Jam

  • Last of the great avuncular magicians
Re: University Challenged
« Reply #154 on: May 11, 2020, 04:29:59 PM »
I need a computer that can process very large image files (confocal Z-stacks) without crashing. I'm used to one with 64Gb of RAM. My creaky old machine with a paltry 8Gb just won't cut it.

Got a horrible feeling that what they'll do is commandeer the biggest indoor open spaces they've got, like the Great Hall, and pack as many partitioned worker-cells in there as possible.

Ooooh, I'd love a desk in McEwan Hall...

Attila

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Re: University Challenged
« Reply #155 on: May 11, 2020, 04:45:35 PM »
We've been told that if we have to have social distancing on campus, then we can fill classrooms only to 16% capacity. So, a class of 100 students? Will need 7 classrooms that fit 100 students...we have exactly 10 classrooms on the entire campus that would meet that criteria. Everything else are much smaller rooms made for 10-40 students.

The dean's email seems to be pretty much saying that the autumn term will be taught online -- as much as a faff that that will be (and a bummer for the Year 1s, as face to face interaction is so important for them in the first semester), I'd rather just bite the bullet and do our classes online, than have the lectures be online, but we have to go onto campus for the smaller seminars. With my commute, that would pretty much be me going to campus as usual (due to my commuting situation, I'm usually on campus by 730) and staying all day -- doing lectures online from my office, then faffing off to seminars in person. It would get old really fast. I've got colleagues with insane commutes, as well, who live in town 1-3 days out of the week, then go back to wherever. A couple of colleagues live in town during the week and commute back to Ireland or the continent every weekend; another one comes down here from Scotland every week. Loads of them from London.

Re: University Challenged
« Reply #156 on: May 11, 2020, 04:56:25 PM »
2nd line IT tech - Most of our work requires physically being at the PC or configuring the networks, so we’ve been remoting from home and helping other departments. I managed to rescue someone’s PhD from their on campus PC, so that was interesting. Unfortunately the IT contractors the university employed were told that their contracts were not going to be renewed, so they only have a couple of weeks left. Pretty harsh given the circumstances and understaffed levels.

It sounds like we will eventually be returning to campus some days, then working from home on others. Which is perfect, as when the staff do return, there’ll be lots more we can do remotely from home.  Students not physically back until January.

Re: University Challenged
« Reply #157 on: May 15, 2020, 07:59:41 PM »
We just got the University's term plan for 2020-21. I think its genuinely insane.

It can be broadly summed up as:


Attila

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Re: University Challenged
« Reply #158 on: May 15, 2020, 11:44:02 PM »
Sounds pretty much like m ine.

We've been told that, yes, we have to work a lot of extra hours because we have to do a mix of face to face and online teaching, and going over to online is going to be time consuming (especially as senior management expect us now to be monitoring emails and Canvas 24/7.) No, we're not having any more hours factored into our work load - we don't have to, say the senior management people. You see, everyone has an annual workload contract that includes 300, 400, or 500 hours for research -- so, yay! There's all those extra hours you need.

Yes, it's been pointed out to them that those research hours are generally taken up in the summer, and that you can't squeeze more than 24 hours into a day -- and that by their reckoning, it's not out of line to ask us to put in 60-70 hour workweeks during the semester instead of the usual 37.5 (a hahahaha) a week we're booked for.

What's really magical is the huge divide between someone like me, who's shackled to 4 or 5 modules every semester, and a colleague who maybe teaches on two per semester, both small groups of final year students in her fun time research speciality.

Oh, and we will be penalised if we don't keep up with research and public outreach, too.

And to add to the fun, apparently the union is making noises about additional industrial action.

Blue Jam

  • Last of the great avuncular magicians
Re: University Challenged
« Reply #159 on: May 29, 2020, 01:34:27 PM »
Was about to head out for a lovely picnic when I got summoned to a Zoom meeting to discuss the reopening of the lab. Fucksake. *video off* *beer open*

Re: University Challenged
« Reply #160 on: June 09, 2020, 05:21:53 PM »
Just heard that 3 Russell Group universities are about to announce large voluntary redundancy schemes, one in particular has a savings target of 100M as it seems they are in some trouble with the loss of international student fees.

Norton Canes

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Re: University Challenged
« Reply #161 on: June 09, 2020, 05:51:58 PM »
Yeah, very much the same picture at our not-quite-Russell-group Uni.

Alberon

  • His heart is an empty fridge
Re: University Challenged
« Reply #162 on: June 09, 2020, 09:01:04 PM »
My university is expecting a deficit of above £100m over the next three years. Rather than go straight to redundancies (voluntary or otherwise) upper management have started discussions on cost of living pay rise freeze for the next few years or a four day week (meaning only 80% pay before tax) for one year. Even with some form of wage cut there are going to be job losses by the end of the year.

I’m being unfurloughed in three weeks. We’ll be very busy from then and quite how working arrangements will change from social distancing I don’t know.

Utter Shit

  • Snotty Bumstead
Re: University Challenged
« Reply #163 on: June 09, 2020, 09:13:49 PM »
Just heard that 3 Russell Group universities are about to announce large voluntary redundancy schemes, one in particular has a savings target of 100M as it seems they are in some trouble with the loss of international student fees.

Not sure if this has been mentioned already but Sussex did this a couple of weeks ago.

buttgammon

  • Magnums (Magna)
Re: University Challenged
« Reply #164 on: June 09, 2020, 11:21:13 PM »
Had a bizarre, lengthy and depressing meeting about our arrangements for resuming in the autumn. The sum of it is that we will need to implement a mix of face-to-face and online teaching (depending on government guidelines and more practical issues around social distancing etc), while the college hemorrhages money in the background.

We've talked about poor classrooms and buildings before, but I can't overstate how ill-suited most of our rooms are to any kind of social distancing, at least at 2 metres. It's no exaggeration to say it is one of the most beautiful campuses in the world, but the building in question is the exception.

Attila

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Re: University Challenged
« Reply #165 on: June 10, 2020, 07:15:56 AM »
Had a bizarre, lengthy and depressing meeting about our arrangements for resuming in the autumn. The sum of it is that we will need to implement a mix of face-to-face and online teaching (depending on government guidelines and more practical issues around social distancing etc), while the college hemorrhages money in the background.

We've talked about poor classrooms and buildings before, but I can't overstate how ill-suited most of our rooms are to any kind of social distancing, at least at 2 metres. It's no exaggeration to say it is one of the most beautiful campuses in the world, but the building in question is the exception.

I suspect we're going to be subject to something similar -- senior management is determined to re open campus in the autumn, but to a mix of online and face-to-face classes. To keep student social distancing, face-to-face seminars will be spread out between 9 on Monday and 6pm on Fridays as much as possible -- meaning that I will probably have to be on campus five days a week pretty much all day, just to teach for an hour every day. I take the train to get to campus (about a three hour round trip due to faff and not being on a mainline station), so huzzah. If I'm going into campus, I end up staying all day because otherwise, it's a waste of a day work-wise just to go in 'for an hour' (plus I think Mr Attila prefers it when I'm not at the house).

They're also still banging on about doing a proper, live open day in July, the first one for the 2021 recruitment series, but I honestly don't see that happening.

We do not have the classroom space for proper social distancing. It's been more important to pay £millions for useless pretty non-teaching buildings, rebranding & marketing bullshit, and overinflated wages for the senior management and their underlings. Had this happened when I first started there, things might not have been quite so bad, but there's been a push to add more and more students every year. There were about 5K students when I started here, and sm's goal is to have 10K in the next two years or so -- with no additional classroom or office space. We were already seriously hurting with no space.


Re: University Challenged
« Reply #166 on: June 10, 2020, 09:40:19 AM »
I have that meeting today, with my main constraint the accreditation requirement (currently not dropped) we need to run > 300 hrs of labs for our students.

The online delivery isn't worrying me so much - it will require me to rerecord a LOT of lectures - but I will break them all up into 15-20 minute chunks. My 3rd year modules are for cohorts of ca. 30 and normally < 20* turn up, so I will end up with two sessions booked but likely the second one empty.

My 1st year module, with 200 students, on the other hand ...

On the money side, we won the first battle. We were told no casual contracts but we pointed out that almost all were to facilitate safe running of labs and they backed down across the board on that front. We've made a few wins for the department (found freeware software alternatives, got a 5 figure sum saved in the installation of some equipment), so that's looking healthier for us, maybe not in terms of absolute chunks of money saved, but that the department has made the effort.

I mean, next year is still going to be a horror-show but I think it is mostly changes that you can plan and prepare around. Some of my colleagues are really going to struggle - one managed to delete rather than download all submissions for their final year exam ...



*20 is the magic number - no sessions larger than 20 students next year as a cap on the 25 % capacity.

buttgammon

  • Magnums (Magna)
Re: University Challenged
« Reply #167 on: June 10, 2020, 09:52:50 AM »
I suspect we're going to be subject to something similar -- senior management is determined to re open campus in the autumn, but to a mix of online and face-to-face classes. To keep student social distancing, face-to-face seminars will be spread out between 9 on Monday and 6pm on Fridays as much as possible -- meaning that I will probably have to be on campus five days a week pretty much all day, just to teach for an hour every day. I take the train to get to campus (about a three hour round trip due to faff and not being on a mainline station), so huzzah. If I'm going into campus, I end up staying all day because otherwise, it's a waste of a day work-wise just to go in 'for an hour' (plus I think Mr Attila prefers it when I'm not at the house).

They're also still banging on about doing a proper, live open day in July, the first one for the 2021 recruitment series, but I honestly don't see that happening.

We do not have the classroom space for proper social distancing. It's been more important to pay £millions for useless pretty non-teaching buildings, rebranding & marketing bullshit, and overinflated wages for the senior management and their underlings. Had this happened when I first started there, things might not have been quite so bad, but there's been a push to add more and more students every year. There were about 5K students when I started here, and sm's goal is to have 10K in the next two years or so -- with no additional classroom or office space. We were already seriously hurting with no space.



A lot of this is very recognisable. The constant bombardment of emails we got about the new restaurant in the School of Business a few weeks before the virus hit seem even stupider with hindsight. In arts, we're hopelessly oversubscribed, but still teaching in the same building that's been used for the last fifty years. Over the last few years, some lectures have had to be held in a science building at the opposite end of the campus, often forcing students and staff to run between classes.

The issue with hours could be a real worry too, especially as there might be a limit to how many classes rooms can hold because it's been suggested that they may have to be thoroughly cleaned after each use. The college have mooted the idea that we will open until 9 or 10pm, but understandably, everyone has told them to piss off.

Re: University Challenged
« Reply #168 on: June 10, 2020, 10:23:14 AM »
We're reworking what we consider to be a contact hour.

However, the maths of my 1st year module is somewhat telling. If the most I can have in a room is 20, then I have to run 10 sessions a week to cover. IF I am allowed to sort out my own booking*, then I reckon student laziness with halve that figure but that's still mental.

*booking system to simply fill up as it goes along, first 20 to sign up get the first slot, second 20 and so on. Grouping and ending up with some groups of 20 and others of 1 or 2 and me having to be around for 2 days a week teaching one module ... not so good.

The biggest problem remains gash awful comms from the top. Students being told one thing, staff another and key bits of information being changed at the last minute. But at least they've dropped the [inset university name here] Tracker app - I cannot believe that one got off the drawing board.

Attila

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Re: University Challenged
« Reply #169 on: June 10, 2020, 10:54:55 AM »
A lot of this is very recognisable. The constant bombardment of emails we got about the new restaurant in the School of Business a few weeks before the virus hit seem even stupider with hindsight. In arts, we're hopelessly oversubscribed, but still teaching in the same building that's been used for the last fifty years. Over the last few years, some lectures have had to be held in a science building at the opposite end of the campus, often forcing students and staff to run between classes.

The issue with hours could be a real worry too, especially as there might be a limit to how many classes rooms can hold because it's been suggested that they may have to be thoroughly cleaned after each use. The college have mooted the idea that we will open until 9 or 10pm, but understandably, everyone has told them to piss off.

Substitute 'sports' for 'science' building, and that's us under normal circs. Last autumn, I had a year 2 lecture group for an hour in a classroom in the history building, which is in one tucked away corner of the campus -- then we had 15 minutes to run to the farthest possible other corner of campus for the seminar in the sports building (a building that the majority of my students didn't even know existed). Surprise: I'd get about 30 on the lecture, and maybe 5 or 6 for seminar. When I asked if I could have the lecture room for two hours, so I could run my lecture and seminar back to back without a 20 minute jog in between, suddenly my attendance went up. Huh.

It's not the farthest possible split, as we also have a business/admin programme that's even more remotely placed than the sports building. Lockdown saved me from having a single-hour seminar meeting there the last three weeks of this past semester*

Ooooh, senior management have found the perfect solution for all of the extra hours we will need to pull all of this off: everyone is on a contract that gives them 300, 400, or 500 hours a year for research. So, next year, we get no 'research' hours, and can thus be loaded with an extra 300, 400, or 500 teaching hours during the semester.

Now, maths are not my strongest suit, but the research hours are meant to be spread out, usually, over the summer. So senior management is asking us to cram non-existent hours into the work week. To paraphrase Kylie the pigeon says in Mongrels, 'They did not think that through...'

More fun: The VC had a 'town hall' meeting a week or so ago on Teams; so many people tried to attend, that most people got locked out because Teams allows only so many participants at once.

We have a 'virtual Open Day' next week, and huzzah! Looks like several hundred people are planning to attend the big talks. On Teams. Where after about 100 people, everyone gets locked out. So today, the VC is holding a 'test' teams where they're going to see if 250 people can attend a single meeting, so they've asked all of us to join the meeting.

Clown cars operate more efficiently than this place.



*I say last three weeks, but in this new universe, the semester is still going on, into its 3547th week at this point, with no end in sight.



I mean, next year is still going to be a horror-show but I think it is mostly changes that you can plan and prepare around. Some of my colleagues are really going to struggle - one managed to delete rather than download all submissions for their final year exam ...

*20 is the magic number - no sessions larger than 20 students next year as a cap on the 25 % capacity.

For us, the magic number is 16 for some reason.

And I've got colleagues who are really struggling with doing everything online, as well.

Re: University Challenged
« Reply #170 on: June 10, 2020, 11:06:22 AM »
Quote
*I say last three weeks, but in this new universe, the semester is still going on, into its 3547th week at this point, with no end in sight.

LAST WEEK OF YEAR HERE got a party hat and all.

Attila

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Re: University Challenged
« Reply #171 on: June 10, 2020, 01:02:04 PM »
Still marking exams here...normally, this would be our week of exam boards, but they're postponed til July now...plus they want to start the autumn term a week earlier than usual. Goody.

We've already got the shells for next year's Canvas modules (which normally don't appear til late August) -- but we've been told not to fill them in yet because the jury's still out on what autumn term is going to look like.

I want a party and a party hat, too.

Blue Jam

  • Last of the great avuncular magicians
Re: University Challenged
« Reply #172 on: June 18, 2020, 04:38:30 PM »
Looks like I'm officially back in the lab on the 29th, 'elf and safety peeps permitting.

Re: University Challenged
« Reply #173 on: June 28, 2020, 04:42:13 PM »
Good luck. We were back last week - popped in to check post and pick up some items. Lab needs a bit of a clean.

Where was I?

Oh yes, after maybe 2 months of back and forth about different term structures, we got informed that - actually - we have to stick to the one that was planned all along. Brilliant.

Attila

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Re: University Challenged
« Reply #174 on: June 28, 2020, 06:40:16 PM »
My autumn term is going to be an absolute nightmare. No prizes for me for accurately predicting that my university would choose the worst possible option (a blend of live, sychronous, and asynchronous lectures/seminars. Everything has to be recorded, streamed, and close-captioned, as well). The cherry on the bun is that we're being vaguely threatened with redundancy if we are no 'delivering top quality experiences for the students online and on campus.'

Senior management have demonstrated repeatedly that each of them (there's only four of them plus a lot of toadies) that they have no clue how Teams or any of our intranet platforms work when it comes to streaming, &c. I understand one big Teams meeting broke up last week because someone 'accidently' seized control of the meeting, so the group was treated their their desktop until they just abandoned the meeting.

Puce Moment

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Re: University Challenged
« Reply #175 on: June 28, 2020, 07:07:05 PM »
Our higher ups have tried to propose something similar but they made the mistake of being on a Zoom meeting Q&A which revealed that they do not understand some of the most basic aspects of our IT system.

They have asked for stuff and we have basically laughed in their faces and said "ok, let's go with your idea for the Autumn term" with massive grins on our faces. They now realise it won't work but that we don't care. We aren't prepared to tell people on massive salaries why their ideas are so flawed and doomed to failure. 

The main topic of conversation amongst ourselves seems to be mainly about what career to go into after HE.

buttgammon

  • Magnums (Magna)
Re: University Challenged
« Reply #176 on: June 29, 2020, 09:48:50 AM »
We're going for the incoherent mix of online and in-person teaching, but much of it is dependent on whether two metre social distancing is still in place. Lectures are all almost certainly to be online only in the autumn, but the hope is that most tutorials will be able to take place in person if distancing requirements are reduced or removed. Third and fourth year seminars are fine because their class sizes are smaller anyway, masters classes are fine because their intakes are mostly comprised of overseas students who won't be willing or able to start this year and we've been told first years will be prioritised, so that just leaves us with the second-year classes that make up the vast majority of my work.

monkfromhavana

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Re: University Challenged
« Reply #177 on: June 29, 2020, 12:19:56 PM »
As the uni I work out is largely online distance learning, I'm very lucky to have been insulated from all of this. The students that we have on physical campus sites have just switched to online mode.

I do think that trying to quickly get everything online is going to be trickier than people think. Teaching online is a lot different from classroom teaching and it takes quite a while to get it right. Plus you have to have a system where students can submit online, forums, libraries, check Turnitin scores, get marking sent out, award boards etc etc etc etc etc. then of course you will have a fair percentage of students disputing their grades, mitigating circumstances etc.

Putting all that in place takes time and money. At the HESA conference pre-COVID, there was a speech where some guy was basically going on about how over-dependent tradtional unis were on students coming from abroad and how that makes up around 70% of their income. Shit has well and truly hit the fan.

pancreas

  • The islets of Langerhans are the very best islets
Re: University Challenged
« Reply #178 on: June 29, 2020, 12:59:45 PM »
We aren't prepared to tell people on massive salaries why their ideas are so flawed and doomed to failure. 

This is basically all I do these days. If I can fit in any maths in between it's a sweet bonus.

Blue Jam

  • Last of the great avuncular magicians
Re: University Challenged
« Reply #179 on: June 29, 2020, 01:21:09 PM »
Cycled to werk today. Was a bit terrifying and I have discovered I'm horribly unfit but I made it. One-way system and building entry/exit system is a pain in the arse though.

I think we'll be alright for distance learning. Embra's IT departments are actually really good and I think we may have been early adopters of a lot of online systems.

I just hope I'm still here after December :(

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