All posts by Mark Carrigan

An update about TeachHigher

TeachHigher Update – Breaking News
Are you up for the demo on Friday 19 June?
(12pm at Library Road)
Can you spare an hour to make a poster/banner?
(Wednesday 17 June from 4-7pm)
Or distribute flyers?
(Wednesday 3 June at 12pm at Library entrance)

Read about the latest achievements below or in the attachments.

National Support for Warwick UCU’s Campaign against TeachHigher

Last weekend, UCU Congress (the body which decides UCU policy for the whole of the UK) voted to campaign against TeachHigher – see motion 66A.1 here. In a letter to Nigel Thrift, Michael MacNeil, National Head of Bargaining and Negotiations, calls it “an issue of national importance for the whole union”. UCU have reported Warwick’s story here and here.

UCU – University and College Union – University of Warwick under fire for ‘regressive’ change to casual contracts
UCU has called for a rethink of ‘regressive’ plans by the University of Warwick to change the way it manages staff on casual contracts.

Staff and Student Demonstration against Casualisation and TeachHigher

Please support the demonstration on Friday 19 June – further details here. Alongside the usual elements (a march and a rally), there’ll be lots of creative activities highlighting the human cost of casual contracts – watch out for “Sticky Floor”, “Twins” and “The Alternative Campus Guide”. UCU branches from all over the country are coming as are staff from UCU Head Office.

History and Film and TV Studies join English in voting not to use TeachHigher

Two more departments have exercised their democratic right and voted to reject TeachHigher at a departmental meeting. Please try to do the same in your own department. Contact the committee via if you need help with this.    

Boycott of pilot by Sociology tutors

22 tutors in the Sociology department emailed Professor Solomos (Head of Department) and Jackie Smith (Director of Administration for Sociology, PAIS and Philosophy) on 27 May saying they won’t apply for sessional work via TeachHigher next academic year. Read the email in the second attachment. About a third of all teaching in Sociology is done by sessional tutors.

Concerns expressed by 68 members of staff in PAIS

68 members of staff have written a series of emails to Professor Chris Hughes (Head of Department) and Jackie Smith (Director of Administration) outlining their concerns. The group includes people from all ranks of the academic ladder showing this is an issue affecting all of us. Approximately 53% of all UG teaching in PAIS is done by sessional tutors, 30% by teaching fellows on temporary contracts, and 17% by permanent staff members.

Student Union overwhelmingly rejects TeachHigher despite  management reassurances

The SU invited management to an Open Meeting about TeachHigher on 14 May. You can hear an audio recording here. The students were not reassured. A week later, they voted overwhelmingly to “reject TeachHigher and demand in its place a universal contract system that values and not exploits hourly-paid teachers”. Read the full motion and result here:

Why are staff and students from all over the country coming together to oppose TeachHigher?

1) There is still a lack of clarity about TeachHigher. The website says it’s “an internal academic recruitment and administration services” and that the pilot will involve seven departments (Sociology, Philosophy, Politics and International Studies, Chemistry, Mathematics, the School of Modern Languages and Cultures, and the Centre for Lifelong Learning). This leaves unanswered important questions about its reporting structures, its business model and its longer-term aims. Similarly, the relationship between TeachHigher and Warwick Employment Group, a University of Warwick subsidiary, remains opaque. TeachHigher used to be listed as the sixth brand on WEG’s webpage, alongside Unitemps and – now there’s just an awkward gap in the bottom right-hand corner. Check it out here. Given how much things keep changing, without any explanation, who could blame us for being sceptical?

2) UCU and the Hourly-paid Working Group have not been consulted at any point.

3) The original terms and conditions were deeply concerning because the “candidate” could be dismissed at any time without reason. We know nothing about the revised terms and conditions because we have been excluded from the drafting process. We believe they will still offer a contract for services, denying hourly-paid staff basic employment rights.

4) Warwick already has one of the highest casualisation rates in the whole sector and TeachHigher will do nothing to ameliorate this dubious distinction. Instead, it will almost certainly make the situation worse in the next five to ten years.

5) TeachHigher makes it possible for HR personnel with no academic training or specialist expertise to recruit teachers and researchers. Potentially, under the new scheme, HR could bypass departmental preferences and take full control of the hiring process and the staffing of modules. This isn’t going to happen this year or next, but who’s to say it won’t happen further down the line?

6) Similarly, TeachHigher makes it easier for Warwick central management to recruit ever larger numbers of hourly-paid and casualised staff to teach modules and do piecemeal research, while continuing to reduce the number of secure, open-ended positions. Again, this isn’t going to happen immediately, but it’s a real concern for the future.

What’s the alternative?

1) Halt the pilot; engage in meaningful discussion with UCU and other groups most affected;

2) Place hourly-paid staff on fractional contracts that give them the same pay, conditions and rights as those on open-ended contracts.

Produced by the Warwick UCU committee and the Hourly-Paid Working Group.
29 May 2015

Newsletter – April 2015

Headlines in this edition include:

·      Big turnout at meeting to counter TeachHigher threat

·      Life’s little ironies

·      Branch action on pensions – what you can do

·      Union victory on DPR

·      Setting the tone

·      Hourly Paid Tutor Group (An hourly-paid tutor speaks)

·      ‘If only’…   Warwick and gender

·      TeachHigher Developments

Download here

Warwick UCU questions the legal basis of academic redundancies

UCU representatives have questioned the whole case for redundancies in WMS and SLS and the selection criteria that have been used. We notified the management that we are taking advice from our lawyers with a view to a legal challenge.

In our view the university is sacrificing academic standards for the sake of mindless HR process, and consequently doing immense damage to science.

As has previously been reported, academics (with certain exceptions) are being selected according to a single criterion: the amount of research grant income they have brought in in the four-year period up to last term. This criterion is being applied absolutely rigidly in order that management can argue selection has been objective – which is a clear legal requirement.

However it is in fact arbitrary because it ignores the overriding consideration that the pool of employees selected must relate to the reason for the proposed redundancy. It fails to comply with ACAS guidelines which state: “Organisations need to choose criteria which will help maintain a workforce that can best support their future needs …” Although employers enjoy considerable flexibility in their choice of selection pool, they nevertheless have to be able to provide evidence of sound business judgement having been exercised. We are arguing that Warwick HR department and the PVC overseeing it (Professor Tim Jones) have signally failed to do that. They are proposing to dismiss many academics who would –  by normal standards – be seen as an asset to the university – even when viewed in purely financial terms. Some of those selected would be regarded as outstanding researchers and world class scientists.

HR and Professor Jones have considered only one source of research funding: external grants. In UK universities research is supported by a dual-funding system : core research is paid for through the funding council (via the QR formula) and programme/project research is paid for by grants awarded competitively by the research councils and charitable foundations. If the university management seeks to make a business case for redundancy on a purely financial basis, that must take account of QR funding – which is considerable for many of the staff concerned – in addition to grants.

Many of the academics whose work was rated at 3-star or better in the 2008 RAE can justifiably claim to have contributed to the financial success of the university sufficiently to have raised enough in QR funding to pay for their research over the four-year period. Likewise research that was rated 3-stars in the REF would be expected to bring in QR funding in the future.

To see this, consider the figures for 2014/15.

The QR element of the HEFCE funding formula reflects the RAE quality ratings directly, the exact amount depending on the Unit of Assessment (i.e. subject). A 3-star publication in Life Sciences (UoA Biological Sciences) attracts funding of £10,530 per year, and a 4-star publication three times that, £31,592. So an academic with four outputs rated 3-star can justifiably claim to have brought in research funding of £42,123. One with three papers rated 3-star and one 4-star will thus have been responsible for QR income of £63,184. One with four 4-star papers will have brought in £126,369.

In the Medical School four 3-star publications in the UoA Other Hospital Based Clinical Subjects are worth £32,343 per year in 2014/15. Non-laboratory-based research attracts lower QR funding. For example in UoA Education an academic with four 3-star publications could reasonably claim to have brought in £18,301. This funding covers a substantial part if not all of the research component of a salary of an academic whose duties include teaching and administration as well as research.

If selection for redundancy is to be made on the grounds of whether or not their research time was financed then it should take account of all sources of finance that can be directly attributed to them and not just external research grants. It has to be said also that for many academics external research grant funding is not essential and QR core finance is sufficient for them to be able to produce research that is internationally excellent or better.

Many if not most of the 20 academics in WMS ‘at risk’, and those who have been selected in Life Sciences, contributed to either or both the 2008 RAE and also the 2014 REF.

At the meeting the UCU also made the case that focussing on research grants alone both is unfair and does not relate to the business case in another sense. Selection is being made on the basis that academics must have succeeded in being awarded the specified minimum amount in grants over an arbitrary four-year window. Yet our evidence strongly suggests that NO academic would be able to satisfy the criterion for EVERY four-year period in their career, even those who have had the most success. We therefore question whether this criterion is truly objective or simply blind, or of benefit to the university in the long term.

Finally we reiterated that we do not accept there is a financial case for academic redundancies. The departmental deficits are due to excessive spending on central university activities that are often of questionable benefit to the academic work of the departments.

Academic Redundancies in WMS/SLS

The union has issued a press statement about the job losses in WMS with an online petition to the VC:

Also the THE magazine have published a letter from Dennis Leech, current branch president:

We are also aware that Warwick is following Imperial in a policy that is so unfair as to threaten the careers and well being of individuals who are in all other respects successful and productive scientists. We think that you should be aware, if you have not seen them already, of the press stories about the sad death of an outstanding scientist as a result of this.