SBCS Restructuring: UCU Response

UCU has now drafted its formal response to the restructuring proposals for the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, which you can access below. This includes both a devastating critique of the proposals and a positive alternative to improve research outcomes while safeguarding teaching and jobs.

Executive Summary

UCU agrees that SBCS should aspire to a better performance in research, but we argue that this is best achieved by the support and encouragement of existing colleagues, especially junior staff and those burdened by heavy and inefficient teaching, combined with a reduction in SSR to match that of our competitors, investment in improving facilities and above all more funding of postgraduate studentships. We oppose the imposition of unrealistic targets based on controversial and inconsistent metrics, not grounded in common sense or infeasible within the practical limitations of the School and the likely investment the College can afford. We emphatically reject the plans for large scale redundancies or dismissals: these threats lower morale, reduce incentive and encourage our best staff to seek posts elsewhere. Further, they risk bringing the College into disrepute, but at best will produce only a marginal and temporary improvement in research ranking.

In opposing the advertised redundancy criteria, we point to the inherent unfairness of arbitrary or obscure measurements of research quality, which in many cases neither reflect quality nor the real contributions of co-authors, which actively discourage both collaboration and collegiality, and which may provide grounds for claims of unfair dismissal or contravene existing employment legislation. Further, we reject performance management as currently proposed, but point instead to the advantages of fair and properly managed appraisal.

The Evans restructuring proposals are extremist measures disproportionate to the scale of the problem and include no risk assessment; further, they fail to address the underlying causes of poor performance or to admit the policy constraints within which the 2008 RAE submission was made. In their place we propose increased investments in postgraduate studentships and better support of junior staff or those temporarily unfunded from external sources, combined with radical changes to teaching and examination structures that will reduce distractions and increase research time. Aspirations can best be met by incremental reforms and increases of investment in our known areas of strength, including some new appointments in these areas rather than bioinformatics, but not by bullying, by bureaucratic diktat or by replacing one set of unhappy staff with another.

 OUR MESSAGE: A PLAN WHICH ENVISAGES THE WHOLESALE AND UNFAIR DISMISSAL OF STAFF, WHICH PRESAGES THE COLLAPSE OF TEACHING AND WHICH IGNORES THE FUNDAMENTAL REQUIREMENTS FOR SCIENTIFIC PRODUCTIVITY CANNOT SUCCEED AT QUEEN MARY, UNIVERSITY OF LONDON.

Access the response and appendix.

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