November 08, 2009

A question of 'conduct unbecoming' revisited

Should those who are concerned about these things wonder whether the questions posed in the posting on this website, 'Conduct unbecoming...' (February 07, 2009), have taken on greater urgency? Here are some observations: On 29th October 2009, there was a letter from Professor Robert Burgess, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leicester, to 'the Leading Researchers of Tomorrow', in the appointments section of the Times Higher Education (THE) (p. 75). That letter advertised a 'New Blood lectureship scheme.' In the letter Robert Burgess stated that the THE had 'applauded Leicester's very different approach, declaring the University "elite without being elitist".'

Actually, according to the THE, it was Robert Burgess himself who made this declaration: see 'The Winners' booklet for the 2008 THE Awards, included with the THE on 30 October 2008 - '"Elite without being elitist": this is how Bob Burgess, vice-chancellor of the University of Leicester, describes his institution.' Does the THE approve of this? Not a very good example for students or new blood researchers, is it? (And what would the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) or IUSS parliamentary select committee members say?)

The above letter from Robert Burgess also tells the reader, 'Earlier this month the Times Higher Education named the University of Leicester as winner of the award for "Outstanding Student Support".' (For those who are interested in these things, that category was sponsored by the QAA.) The particular programme for which Leicester was 'rewarded' was named 'Access to Employability', which, it was said, 'aims to dismantle the barriers to employment that confront students and graduates with disabilities' (see the booklet included with the THE on 22 October 2009).

To refer back to the posting on this website on 7th February 2009, perhaps one could add to question 3 the question: Do those involved in judging for the annual THE awards ever ask for data relating to the treatment of staff by the institution in the particular area in order to ascertain whether the institution is fully committed to tackling the relevant problem, or whether the programme might largely be a PR exercise? Sources of such data might be staff survey results, grievances and legal claims. I suggest that had the judging panel done so in this instance, it might have been disappointed.

Lastly, did anyone notice that Robert Burgess was himself on the THE judging panel this year, as was the Chief Executive of the Higher Education Academy (Paul Ramsden), of which Robert Burgess is the Chair? I am sure that neither of these men were involved in the judging of the award that went to Leicester, but is it really appropriate to have on a judging panel of this kind people directly connected, or connected through association, to a shortlisted institution?

Anonymous contribution

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