236+100+165+150+… the academic slaughter in the UK continues

Chris Havergal reports today on Queen’s University Belfast plans to axe 236 (note the precision in their count) jobs and reduce student numbers by 1,010. James Field reports that the University of Surrey is to cut 100 jobs and scrap its politics department, partly using the Research Excellence Framework (REF) as a guide. Jack Grove reports that up to 165 jobs may be lost at London Metropolitan University. The University of Aberdeen is to cut about 150 jobs as part of efforts to save millions of pounds in the coming months (this item from BBC but see also my post over one protagonist).

On more personal stories, Stefan Grimm took his own life, making sure to expose the circumstances in which he found himself by documenting his view of how professors are treated at Imperial College. Imperial College responded by saying they hoped to “create an environment in which everyone understands what is expected of him or her”. When Louise Lindsay, Imperial’s director of human resources, was asked if changes being made would have helped Professor Grimm, she said it was “not clear it would have resulted in a different outcome”. (She is correct: Professor Grimm understood what was expected of him.) David Colquhoun has expanded on this story, which he helped disseminate in the first place.

Damien Markey, a senior lecturer in visual effects for film and television and secretary of the Bolton branch of the UCU and his wife, Jennifer Markey, an academic administrator in the health and community studies department, were sacked by the University of Bolton for allegedly leaking information about the vice-chancellor to the press. About 40 per cent of PhD students at the University of Exeter believe that studying for a doctorate has worsened their physical and mental health. A leaked paper written by management at Swansea University describes critics among its economics staff as a “cancer” that “must be removed”. Yet, academics must watch their tone of voice (and bring in the income that sustains their masters).

How does it feel like being an academic in the UK these days?

Does Malta really wish to import such habits? As I said elsewhere, the Principal of Queen Mary University of London, Simon Gaskell, boasted about setting aside last year £14.9 million (after removing one-off items). Now we know why the sackings, at least with respect to one university… I predicted the scandal a year ago. The tragedy within the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences is also being admitted: The staff survey… revealed that many staff in SBCS felt stressed and unhappy about work life. Matthew Evans has invited an external consultant to the Senior Executive away day to discuss some of these issues. Members of the Executive discussed the problems and the following points were noted:

    • There is a lack of collective responsibility
    • Many changes involving staff leaving, new appointments, performance expectations
    • A disparity between Schools and departments in the College, where there are no performance expectations in place.

May I take this space to thank the students at the University of Surrey that moved in support of their lecturers? If you have a moment check out this 5 minute video they made, which reminded me of our own students who moved in our support. It is time to take collective action everywhere.

15 thoughts on “236+100+165+150+… the academic slaughter in the UK continues

  1. So “lack of collective responsibility” is revealed to members of a self-selected, unelected and unaccountable group calling itself a “Senior Executive” (sic)? Which spends research and teaching money on an external consultant? Who advises it at a closed meeting?

    Can anyone not see a cheaper and more effective solution?

  2. A day goes by and information on sackings of academics in the UK becomes out-dated. I find the situation outrageous.

    Opposition is growing, which is a good sign.

    Also from students, who are also losing big.

    In case you have voting rights in the UK:

  3. And of course in the background: The rise and rise of executive pay…

    And Warwick seems to always be on the news for the wrong reasons.
    They can’t even celebrate their 50th birthday in peace.

    Letter that describes potentially unlawful activities from the University of Bolton managers, who have dismissed UCU members that dissented their highly-questionable decisions. It should be read widely (link embedded on tweet below)

  4. An example of hatred by an exemplary member of the class of the sector’s true “cancer” is reported today at the Times Higher Education:

    Just when it seemed that Nigel Piercy, the dean of Swansea University’s business school, had learned how to keep his foot out of his mouth, he’s back in the headlines over what the Western Mail called a “remarkable personal attack” on trade unionists. In a blog posting, Professor Piercy says that among those “claiming the right to censor and veto” academics’ pronouncements are “unpleasant and grubby little people, who purport to represent others because they have persuaded a tiny number of people to elect them to office in trades unions and the like”. Such “creepy little people” are “usually distinguished only by their sad haircuts, grubby, chewed fingernails and failed careers”. Another characteristic is “straggly beards”, “half-way between designer stubble and a real beard” and “probably indicative of a hormone deficiency”. Professor Piercy is often exercised by his opponents’ barnets. Last year he told academics that the school was “not a rest home for refugees from the 1960s, with their ponytails and tie-dyed T-shirts”. A Swansea spokeswoman said that Professor Piercy had the “freedom” to express his “personal views”.

    The paper also posts a reply by Sally Hunt, general secretary of the UCU


    Here is the original reporting by Western Mail


    These individuals are permitted to lead “universities” in the UK. Speaking of failures…

  5. “Raising the Bar is a sports metaphor that will be familiar to academics at Newcastle University, as they have become one of the latest universities to publish their expectations for research performance. All of this was initiated by managerial anxiety, amidst chatter about so-called ‘bottom Russellers,’… The Vice-Chancellor, Chris Brink stated in a ‘town hall meeting’ in November 2015 that Newcastle had lacked 4*-ness in the last REF,… But Raising the Bar is a coercively innocent phrase. It conveniently conceals all the judgement, hostility, pain and pressure that we know will follow it.”

    Shame on Chris Brink and Newcastle University.

    “Nor is the misery confined to the Russell Group; Newcastle joins a long list which now amounts to one in six UK universities, according to the Times Higher: Queens University Belfast, Imperial, Queen Mary University of London, Abertay University, Plymouth University, Robert Gordon University and the universities of Aberdeen, Dundee, East Anglia, Glasgow, Greenwich and Leeds.” (most examples have been also reported in these pages)

    But cheers to Liz Morrish, who simply states the obvious:

    “Academic endeavour is not something that can just be improved by order. Research functions within a context, an ethos and a dynamic.”

    quotes from

  6. This story never seems to end…

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