February 27, 2014

Penalty warnings: institutions where a REF red card might be a sending-off offence

Last summer Times Higher Education reported on fears within the University of Leicester that the institution was reneging on a pledge that there would be no negative career consequences for academics whose work was not submitted to the REF.

A memo from Mark Thompson, its senior pro vice-chancellor, noted that non-submission was “clearly an important performance indicator” and announced that the positions of all eligible staff who were not submitted would be reviewed.

Those without extenuating circumstances could either apply for a teaching-only position or commit to producing certain research performance targets within a year. Failure to do so would normally result in “dismissal on the grounds of unsatisfactory performance”.

Extenuating circumstances would include a department’s submission being “constrained” by the limited number of impact case studies it intended to submit. A Leicester spokesman denied that this amounted to game-playing, noting that “all universities will seek to optimise their outcomes”.

Meanwhile, in September last year, a memo from Niall Piercy, the deputy dean for operations at Swansea University’s School of Management, announced that its academics would typically be moved into teaching-only roles if they did not have four papers deemed to be of at least 3* quality in the institution’s internal “mini-REF” exercise. The plans were dropped a few weeks later, but academics continued to complain that teaching allocations announced on the back of the mini-REF remained largely in place.

And in October, a survey by the University and College Union indicated that more than 10 per cent of academics at eight UK universities – including Leicester – believed themselves to have been told that failure to meet their institution’s REF expectations would lead to redundancy.

Across the sector, however, only 4 per cent of the nearly 7,500 respondents to the UCU survey reported having received such a message. Yet 10 per cent had been told to expect denial of promotion as a consequence of non-submission, 4 per cent to expect transfer to inferior terms and conditions, and 12 per cent to expect to be moved to teaching-focused contracts.

Only 35 per cent of respondents agreed that their institution’s selection procedures were transparent and 6 per cent said selections had been made without any input from peer review.

From: http://www.timeshighereducation.co.ukhttp://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/features/feature-the-ref-how-was-it-for-you/2011548.fullarticle

Kingston University academic suspended after 'trying to rally students against plans to close' School of Planning and Surveying

A Kingston University academic has been suspended after 'trying to rally' students against plans to close her department. Sources said today Dr Sarah Sayce, head of the School of Planning and Surveying, had been suspended after emailing students telling them the university had opened a consultation on the plans.

A Kingston University spokeswoman said: “The university is unable to comment on the employment status of individual members of staff.” One student described Dr Sayce as “an extremely competent and informed academic”, and said she had written to “encourage us to fight for the decision and to save our school.”

Under the proposals 14 teaching jobs could be lost and 18 students could lose their places, after the university said planning courses could be closed due to poor recruitment figures. Vice-chancellor Prof Julius Weinberg said on Friday: “The university will do everything it can to ensure these students can complete their studies, either on a similar alternative course at Kingston or at another university.”

Fresher Rachel Stanislaus, 18, a planning student, said last week she was shocked by the news. She said: “What they have said is they will try and help us to find new places. “It is not something you expect when you sign up to do a degree. You make life changes.” Students on other courses would move to different areas of the university under the plans, subject to a 30-day consultation.

From: http://www.surreycomet.co.uk