Teaching standards and jobs at risk as SEC merger comes to a head

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 Kingston University teaching standards will be damaged as a result of an impending 3 faculty merger, claims the University and College Union (UCU).

 According to the UCU, the loss of at least 21 crucial posts will have a detrimental affect on the University’s reputation and quality of student services.

 “Management started off with a list of 21 jobs and in some areas that’s about a 3rd of the staff that will go,” said Andrew Higgingbottom,UCU Kingston branch representative and politics lecturer.

 “If you look in any detail at the roles and functions of the jobs of people who will go a lot of them help teach, in effect, as they are setting up labs.”

 Kingston University management, who have been in consultation with the UCU since 23rd March over the details of the merger of Science, Engineering and Computing, Information Systems and Mathematics (SEC), deny the claims. But the UCU remains adamant that sufficient administrative and support staff are invaluable to student delivery.

 “The computers in these faculties are not generic word processing software, they are quite demanding and need specialists to set them up and maintain them.”

 “Also, support staff have to deal with quite complex suppliers or professional bodies and in the medium term, if that work is not done professionally or to a high standard, then Kingston’s rating will fall.”

 The consultation came to a close on Monday and although there is agreement over the merits of a faculty merger and the need to cut costs, there is conflict over the proposition and consequences of redundancies.

 Despite the UCU’s concerns, University management is resolute that, whilst the merger will achieve efficiency savings, it will not have the impact that the Union fears, and will actually bolster standards of student delivery. A University spokesperson said:

“The new Faculty will build on Kingston’s strong teaching and research base in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.”

 “Students will still be taught by the same staff, be based on the same campus, have easy access to student support and benefit from the same facilities, top-of-the-range equipment and technical support. “

 “It will also mean the University is able to focus even more on areas that really matter to students, such as helping to improve their employment prospects once they graduate.”

 Although the SEC merger was initially academically driven and was being considered before the University’s cost-cutting programme was implemented, the University acknowledges that it provides a means of making efficiency savings.

 “The merger of the three Faculties will allow us to reduce some costs by streamlining the way we work, through spreading best practice and slimming down the Faculty management structure,” said a University spokesperson.

“Throughout the process, we have been working hard to minimise the need for compulsory redundancies. Several staff whose jobs were at risk have been offered positions in other parts of the University.”

Higginbottom agrees that the University should focus on “best practice”, but refutes the claims that these savings will be insufficient to avoid compulsory redundancies, and challenges the University’s approach.

 “The logic that is being applied is identifying which faculty has the highest ratio between students and staff, and then cutting down on these members of staff.”

“Whereas we would like to see is where you might have one faculty that is very good at student support, in the new faculty they could adopt this best practice on student support.” 

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