Lecturers in dispute over job changes

Lecturers have declared a “war from the inside” against controversial changes concerning the way University departments are run.

Joe Stanley Smith and Ollie Gillman

Lecturers are in dispute over changes that Vice Chancellor Julius Weinberg is pushing through that will change the way University departments are run.

Angry teaching staff have discussed the option of taking action, such as refusing to fill out appraisal forms, though Kingston lecturers’ union chief Dr Andy Higginbottom says they are unlikely to go on strike before the next academic year starts in September.

One principal lecturer in the Faculty of Business and Law, who did not wish to be named, said: “It’s a war from the inside of sorts. We are trying to take action that will not alienate students.”

The proposed changes to the academic progression and promotion mean 265 principal lecturers and readers will have to re-apply for the newly-created position of associate professor.

Fifty University and College Union (UCU) members met on Wednesday to discuss the changes, after which Dr Higginbottom said: “We would like to avoid taking strike action, but it is possible. Personally, I am very committed to a strategic alliance with students. We don’t want to damage students’ prospects.

“Back off”

“Academic staff are angry and indignant at the way they’ve been treated by senior management. We no longer have an elected member of staff on the board of governors. The Vice Chancellor removed them.

“It’s unfair for grade 10 staff to have the threat of dismissal hanging over them. We would like the University to make a conscious U-turn on this issue.”

Dr Higginbottom sent out a warning to Professor Weinberg: “Please back off from your insistence on trying to downgrade serious professional academic responsibilities. Please do not plunge the University into an unnecessary crisis.”

Fight the changes

Students voted to fight the changes at an Emergency General Meeting (EGM) of KUSU last week and 410 lecturers have signed an open letter against the proposals organised by the UCU.

Professor Weinberg told The River that he will push ahead with controversial changes to the way University departments are run.

“We’ll go ahead with this because it’s the right thing to do for the future of the University,” Professor Weinberg said. “We will, as far as we can, get as close to an agreement with UCU.

“The system we are proposing is not revolutionary. It is effectively the system used by most top universities in the UK and abroad.

“This is not about dismissal. I would be delighted if every principal lecturer made the progression to associate professor,” he said.

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