Author Topic: University Challenged  (Read 44179 times)

Attila

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Re: University Challenged
« Reply #180 on: June 29, 2020, 04:16:01 PM »
On the one hand, we're being pressured to submit our detailed plans for how we plan to teach in the autumn, so that it can be submitted this week for review and put into an action plan for the dept next week.

On the other, the VC just wrote to say that the university will be doing two massive rounds of redundancies, one cull this week, and the other 'sometime in the autumn' depending on how many students actually show up.

Fabulous.

Re: University Challenged
« Reply #181 on: June 30, 2020, 12:51:37 PM »
That's my subject group role.

I think I'm being fair - these are the biggest issues, here's some solutions, get on it - but fuck me academics are a bunch of cats in a sack.

Attila

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Re: University Challenged
« Reply #182 on: June 30, 2020, 05:51:20 PM »
We've just been told as a faculty that senior management intends to scythe us down with redundancies -- as many as they can before the end of July(end of fiscal year). They've drawn up a list of criteria that they say is 'objective and fair' about how they will determine who they will get rid of.

And on the heels of this horrible 'town meeting' explaining how all of us in my faculty have been marked as potential people to go (and ignoring hard-hitting questions as well as suggestions for smaller sacrifices that will help to save jobs), we've been sent a detailed 'action plan' on how next semester needs to be sorted, what's expected of us, and how we all need to pull together as a group at this difficult time.

There's a lot more, and much about how badly it's all being handled, but I'm too stressed out even to think about it just now. What a clusterfuck.

Re: University Challenged
« Reply #183 on: June 30, 2020, 06:26:35 PM »
christ.

I mean, its hard enough doing all this and dealing with 2020-21 without that threat.

Attila

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Re: University Challenged
« Reply #184 on: June 30, 2020, 06:39:40 PM »
Sadly, it's not a threat. They presented us with a list of how many people have to go, dept by dept, in my faculty. Voluntary redundancies need to be made by 20 July. After that, they will simply choose who is going out, based on the 'criteria' -- which has nothing to do with one's area of teaching, how many modules one regularly teaches, how many students we already have on the books for our modules in the autumn. Decisions for compulsory redundancy will be made by 26 July, with the people out the door by the 31st. Three guesses when our fiscal year begins.

Oh, and then there will be a second round in late August when they have a better idea of how many students are returning.

I normally teach 5 modules every semester, and contribute bits to others; I have 15+ undergraduate dissertations to supervise next year. My students come to me from several different programmes across three departments. But because my programme has recruited 10% less students for 20/21 entry next year, I'm on the list of staff to axe. Over the course of next year that's 10+  modules and about 150 students affected (if you don't count the full cohorts on the big modules where we lecture to the entire cohort). Not to mention my career/vocation is gone.

My dept and the union have been engaged in emergency meetings all day today and more are scheduled tomorrow.

My head of dept couldn't really help us today, because he's also on the list of possible candidates. They're making no distinction -- ECRs, senior lecturers, readers, and professors were all summoned to this meeting today.

Puce Moment

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Re: University Challenged
« Reply #185 on: June 30, 2020, 07:30:56 PM »
In other news, a job interview that was indefinitely postponed back in February has now been confirmed for Monday!

A university is actually hiring for a new lecturer!

The pressure on my wife during my next haircut is going to be problematic.

Re: University Challenged
« Reply #186 on: June 30, 2020, 08:11:10 PM »
I’m really sorry to hear this, Attila - sending some solidarity, for what it’s worth.

dr beat

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Re: University Challenged
« Reply #187 on: June 30, 2020, 08:54:16 PM »
Hi Attila I'm also deeply sorry to hear this, sending my solidarity too.

Blue Jam

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Re: University Challenged
« Reply #188 on: June 30, 2020, 09:00:43 PM »
So sorry to hear this Atilla, strength to you x

bgmnts

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Re: University Challenged
« Reply #189 on: June 30, 2020, 09:34:22 PM »
Hope it all goes well.

greencalx

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Re: University Challenged
« Reply #190 on: June 30, 2020, 09:53:32 PM »
Shite. What a load of bollocks.

Attila

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Re: University Challenged
« Reply #191 on: June 30, 2020, 10:23:58 PM »
Ta -- it's completely thrown my world in a sudden loop.  I'm not planning to volunteer for redundancy, so do I spend the rest of the month working as usual (on a book, and lesson plans for the autumn), or what? Plans for 'real world' spending and activities have to be curtailed since I have no idea what my financial furture will be after 31 July. I've been getting queries about speaking engagements and an autumn book launch (on campus, no less) -- do I accept? Ask them to wait til I know what's happening?

:(

And right after this meeting, we were all sent the big action plan for blended learning, recruitment/retention, and preparation on campus for social distancing/new lockdown contingencies. The timing was exquisite -- no one I know of is really motivated -- we've been balls to the wall finishing this semester and getting our students squared away, after pullnig out all the stops at the last minute to switch the rest of this semester to online, weeks of endless Teams meetings and reassuring students, and then this. Our union guy agrees that the tone and the timing of this is appalling. It's been just about 24 hours from the tonedeaf warning from the VC yesterday, to being summoned to this meeting this afternoon.

We've got Open Days this week and next -- this should be fun.

Re: University Challenged
« Reply #192 on: July 01, 2020, 03:45:03 PM »
Attila, that is rubbish. I was interested in the 10% fall in students, would this usually be made up in clearing ? Is the assumption that despite results releases carrying on as normal (I don't work in universities but I do work for an exam board which focuses on Level 2 and Level 3 qualifications) there will be no increase on applicants?

All the best. Universities are ruthless at the best of times. This is not the best of times.

Re: University Challenged
« Reply #193 on: July 01, 2020, 04:48:40 PM »
That's my subject group role.

I think I'm being fair - these are the biggest issues, here's some solutions, get on it - but fuck me academics are a bunch of cats in a sack.

I was a Head of Department/Academic Manager for just over four years, and I feel your pain. It's the most stressful and horrific job I've ever done, tasked with enforcing endless policies which I knew were counterintuitive horseshit. Every single day was a battle between dogmatic, ill-informed senior management and experienced, intelligent academics (of which I considered myself one, but was repeatedly told that I was management now and my job was to get "these people" to just shut the fuck up and do as they're told). I got out two years ago on health grounds (chronic health issues, exacerbated by the demands of the role), got busted back down to private and have never been happier. My lecturer role is obviously precarious in the current circumstances, but I don't envy my replacement.

Attila

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Re: University Challenged
« Reply #194 on: July 01, 2020, 05:32:04 PM »
Attila, that is rubbish. I was interested in the 10% fall in students, would this usually be made up in clearing ? Is the assumption that despite results releases carrying on as normal (I don't work in universities but I do work for an exam board which focuses on Level 2 and Level 3 qualifications) there will be no increase on applicants?

All the best. Universities are ruthless at the best of times. This is not the best of times.

We just received the list of criteria for redundancies (as in, how they will decide for us, if no one goes for the voluntary ones). It's based on a points system not unlike when I was applying to see if I were eligible for citizenship, and it is based exclusively on categories from our academic CVs from the 2019-2020 year. So points awarded based on how many modules we taught, how many we taught across other disciplines (ie, are you 'too specialised' and only teach classes in your department -- the more disciplines/departments you teach in, the more points you get), how many publications you got out last year, how much grant money you brought in last year (under £9999 and you get one point -- over £250,000, and you get 40 points), what committees are you on, how many professional development training sessions did you attend/lead/create, and what kind of outreach did you do (Open Days are worth less than school visits).

It's absolutely mental. Last year was quiet for me, because I was coming off 6 years of balls-to-the wall programme leadership, on a bunch of committees, doing all the Open Days, and got out a major publication. This year was left delliberately quiet by my HoD so that I could freshen up my lectures/classes, help prepare for a revalidation, finish a book, and get some grant applications out. So I look like a total slacker based on the criteria.

This has all been in the last 48 hours. We have until the 20th, as noted, to tell them if we want voluntary redundancy. At any time, we are encouraged to write directly to the DVC and explain why we (individually) shouldn't be made redundant -- yes, I'll write to her straight away and put the rat mask on another one of my colleagues.

I'm also irritated that I'm addressed repeatedly by my first name in this horrible letter they sent around today. We are not friends, and we are not on a first name basis.

The cherry on the bun was that this letter, detailing the redundancy scheme, the criteria for sacking us, what will happen if we don't 'choose wisely' (oh, and we can fill out a form to say we'd be interested in applying for our old job should it be listed again after the crisis has passed, so they know to contact us to put in an application) -- we get this email from the dean encouraging us to go to online teaching workshops and some links to good toolkits to use in the classroom for online teaching.

I'm not writing jackshit for any of my autumn modules until I know whether I'm being sacked or not. This is going to be a long month -- I don't dare spend any money except for absolute necessities, so fuck knows what to do as a distraction from all this.

Apologies, Braintree, I missed actually answering your question: there will be a second redundancy cull in August, once clearing is over, and they have a more up-to-date idea how many students will be attending either in the incoming cohort or returning students.

bgmnts

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Re: University Challenged
« Reply #195 on: July 01, 2020, 05:39:24 PM »
Lol wtf 'too specialised'.

If I were to go to university to learn something, I wouldn't want some part timer who teaches a bit of geography, bit of Chaucer and a bit of 19th century British history.
Fucksake.

Attila

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Re: University Challenged
« Reply #196 on: July 01, 2020, 05:43:55 PM »
The funny thing is, I do have a weird double area, two completely unrelated topics that I publish and do conferences on (and a lot of my public engagement is with the other discipline), but I focus only on one for some public engagement, my teaching and student stuff -- for precisely that reason (of not being too spread out across the discipline). They need me for Classics stuff, not for the rogue stuff I do on the side.

So, yup, I earn only 1 point for being 'too specialised' because I mainly teach Roman history (with a spattering of Late Antiquity/early medieval). Now, if I taught in four disciplines, I'd get a whopping 20 points for retention.

monkfromhavana

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Re: University Challenged
« Reply #197 on: July 01, 2020, 09:48:43 PM »
I can't help but think that this is all working out very well for those people who just want universities to churn out huge amounts of lawyers and people trained in business-speak every year.

Attila

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Re: University Challenged
« Reply #198 on: July 01, 2020, 11:23:01 PM »
It is zero coincidence that all of our marks and final results for students had to be turned in last Friday, and the initial announcement that they're culling staff came on Monday. The criteria (which runs to two pages of tables and charts) is way too detailed to have been thrown together over the course of the past two days (which they claim).

They've been planning this for ages. We had a round of redundancies last year, too, because our senior management has not been handling finances well during the good times, let alone being able to handle a crisis time.

I've been getting emails from students who are finding out via social media (as many colleagues are tweeting about the situation), and surprise, they're really upset.

Re: University Challenged
« Reply #199 on: July 01, 2020, 11:47:45 PM »
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« Last Edit: July 02, 2020, 04:17:08 PM by Barry Admin »

buttgammon

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Re: University Challenged
« Reply #200 on: July 02, 2020, 09:17:33 AM »
Attila, this is crazy. You have my sympathy and solidarity.

I can't help but think that this is all working out very well for those people who just want universities to churn out huge amounts of lawyers and people trained in business-speak every year.

Indeed - this is where we're heading. Arts and humanities in particular are barely going to survive this pandemic.

Attila

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Re: University Challenged
« Reply #201 on: July 02, 2020, 01:08:02 PM »
.

Bah, never mind, a bit too gloomy.

Blue Jam

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Re: University Challenged
« Reply #202 on: July 02, 2020, 01:19:28 PM »
Indeed - this is where we're heading. Arts and humanities in particular are barely going to survive this pandemic.

Don't go thinking STEM is safe either. Dundee and King's College London made a load of redundancies a few years back, again based on criteria that didn't make much sense. At KCL staff were given the chop if they hadn't brought in a certain amount of research funding, which meant people doing expensive research with mice and rats were fine, while people doing work on cultured cells, human tissue etc and who didn't need quite as much funding were effectively penalised for doing more cost-effective research.

Alright, there may be more funding for STEM subjects, but there are still plenty of people who see us as ivory tower-dwelling nerds obsessing over arcane stuff that has no application in the real world. Remember Vince Cable and his belief that all publicly-funded research should have a direct commercial benefit? That leaves no room for pottering about making serendipitous discoveries. Engineering aside STEM may also be fucked to some degree.

Blue Jam

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Re: University Challenged
« Reply #203 on: July 02, 2020, 01:54:22 PM »
...aaaaand just had the first email mentioning redundancies. Fucking great.

greencalx

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Re: University Challenged
« Reply #204 on: July 02, 2020, 07:07:34 PM »
Yeah. It was at the end of a long list of other things (no pay rises or promotions) so maybe it won’t come to that. I think the size of the hole is as yet unknown. Some sources tell me that application numbers aren’t looking too bad, but I think the worry is that we longer attract lots of lovely international student fees.

I’ll be stuffed if they go down the Attila style metrics route. I’ve not brought in a grant for nearly twenty years. (Ironically my latest set of rejected applications were all in the area of trying to extract signal from noisy data arising from human social interactions, something that suddenly everyone is trying to do...)

dr beat

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Re: University Challenged
« Reply #205 on: July 02, 2020, 07:14:05 PM »
Yeah. It was at the end of a long list of other things (no pay rises or promotions) so maybe it won’t come to that. I think the size of the hole is as yet unknown. Some sources tell me that application numbers aren’t looking too bad, but I think the worry is that we longer attract lots of lovely international student fees.


I've been getting similar mood music from my end. Not too worried about 20/21, but I am concerned about how things might look 12 months from now.

buttgammon

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Re: University Challenged
« Reply #206 on: July 02, 2020, 07:46:35 PM »
Don't go thinking STEM is safe either. Dundee and King's College London made a load of redundancies a few years back, again based on criteria that didn't make much sense. At KCL staff were given the chop if they hadn't brought in a certain amount of research funding, which meant people doing expensive research with mice and rats were fine, while people doing work on cultured cells, human tissue etc and who didn't need quite as much funding were effectively penalised for doing more cost-effective research.

Alright, there may be more funding for STEM subjects, but there are still plenty of people who see us as ivory tower-dwelling nerds obsessing over arcane stuff that has no application in the real world. Remember Vince Cable and his belief that all publicly-funded research should have a direct commercial benefit? That leaves no room for pottering about making serendipitous discoveries. Engineering aside STEM may also be fucked to some degree.


Absolutely - arts and humanities (now SHAPE - the way you want it to be) are bottom of the pile but you're not far above us. The way things are working in my institution is that the school of business is overtaking everything else as the university's priority.

Re: University Challenged
« Reply #207 on: July 03, 2020, 05:45:59 PM »
I can't help but think that this is all working out very well for those people who just want universities to churn out huge amounts of lawyers and people trained in business-speak every year.

Yep, my old university London Metropolitan, had a terrible reputation with quite a strong and respected History department. The issue was that international students do not come to universities like that to do History or any Humanities so it had to go.

The focus won't be on any particular area, just the most profitable. I got speaking to a delightful young man at my opticians, who was working there as a summer job but also studying ophthalmology who isn't expected back until January as the first semester is moving online. This is quite a practical course, I am not sure how successful that will be.

Atila and everyone I am obsessed with this thread because it has been so open and supportive. All I can do is wish you the best from afar

Re: University Challenged
« Reply #208 on: July 03, 2020, 05:54:09 PM »
On the one hand, we're being pressured to submit our detailed plans for how we plan to teach in the autumn, so that it can be submitted this week for review and put into an action plan for the dept next week.

On the other, the VC just wrote to say that the university will be doing two massive rounds of redundancies, one cull this week, and the other 'sometime in the autumn' depending on how many students actually show up

Absolute rookie error to announce the second round before the first round is complete. Have they never done this before?

(Also my sympathies to you etc)

Attila

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Re: University Challenged
« Reply #209 on: July 03, 2020, 11:38:00 PM »
Absolute rookie error to announce the second round before the first round is complete. Have they never done this before?

(Also my sympathies to you etc)

Factual answer to the question: Yep. Last spring they scythed through a couple of the other faculties on campus, forcing a ton of people into 'voluntary' and then compulsory redundancy. This time around, they're targeting all of the humanities programmes, even though we bring in something like 1/4 of the campus revenue and bodies.

If people don't take VR on this round by 20 July, then they will choose people to go by 26th July (based on a mental criteria as noted above, drawn from draft workload models for next year and from our CVs, apparently), with an exit date of 31 July.

That seriously cannot be legal. I mean, I don't know much about UK unions and employment stuff, but Mr Attila has been gobsmacked at the speed at which they plan to do this, and has been looking a lot of the legalities up online. I refuse to be sacked via email or Teams; if they want to cull me, they can make an appointment for a live meeting.

And then once they see how many students are actually returning in the autumn, they plan another round.

In the meantime, we keep getting emails telling us to go to blended learning training sessions. Fuck knows what we're supposed to be telling prospective students during the upcoming Open Days next week.

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