An Audience With….

One interesting feature of the recent “Audience with Shirley Congdon” was the opportunity to submit questions to an on-line feed, and to “like” questions, thus pushing them up the popularity charts.
This worked particularly well once contributors worked out how to post anonymously, which perhaps led to more searching questions being asked than might otherwise have been the case.
A shame then that just as those more searching questions began to emerge the session – scheduled to finish at 11:30 am – was brought to a halt at 11:00 am.
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Speculate to Accumulate UPDATED

Word reached the LA recently of a former employee for whom emeritus status was deemed inappropriate despite this being an unpaid role, the applicant having a solid research track record, and offering to continue to be active in supporting research PG’s after retirement.
Since our original blog post the news has already reached a number of respected senior staff at Imperial College, London University and Glasgow, all of whom are in their own words “aghast at the decision”

The decision exposes a flaw in the revised list of qualifying criteria that requires that the academic can demonstrate ongoing research intent that will benefit the institution, ignoring the possibility that research opportunities may well emerge down the line even if there are none evident at the point of consideration.

In this case the decision has been made – and our former colleague has successfully bagged a significant research grant within weeks of it!

Still, at least there’s a saving in salary…..not!

NSS Results Cause for Concern

UCU welcomes the recently publicised core objectives of our VC Elect and in particular the desire to re-focus on teaching and learning and the student experience.

Whilst perhaps not entirely unexpected as an ambition, it will be interesting to see whether a renewed strategy can make a difference, although given our parlous performance in the most recent NSS survey where we sit just 7 places off the bottom and are the worst performing of all pre-92 institutions, improvement from such a low base ought to be relatively straightforward.

UCU has continually expressed its concerns at the adverse impact of successive staffing cuts to the student experience. Regular readers may recall our resume of our declining NSS performance – and these results offer little to change that view.

UCU believes that just like alcoholism the first step to recovery is to acknowledge that you have a problem.  It is perplexing then to see that rather than sharing results widely across the university it appears that only parts of the institution are being furnished with that information.   One hopes that a rather more transparent approach is just around the corner.

Distressing news from our neighbours Bradford College where it would seem that continued mismanagement has culminated in the announcement of another restructuring and yet more job losses, around 131 this time.
Implementation is moving swiftly, with distressing tales of staff crying in corridors.

Meanwhile, across the City a new College is being built to accommodate a restructured 6th Form provision for the district.   The site, close to the Interchange, was originally acquired for development of a new leisure centre as part of the City’s rationalisation of locally based provision, a scheme that ultimately was scaled down due to a lack of funds, leaving BMDC with a site but no plans, and more importantly the embarrassment of expending precious funds on a surplus piece of estate.

One has to question the wisdom of building additional provision for learning when Bradford College is well placed to accommodate that need.   To do so on a site that is outside the Learning Quarter suggests that this is an expensive “fig leaf” intended to save the city from further embarrassment.

“Fig Leaf House” stands as testament to a lack of joined up thinking over the provision of education in the City which is at least indirectly leading to colleagues at Bradford College limping from one period of insecurity to another.

UCU Bradford University LA sends its support to College colleagues.

Deja Vu?

Many will have been dismayed at the insensitive way in which recently dismissed Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson swore on his son’s life that he was innocent of the charge that he was the source of a national security leak in respect of the use of Huawei technologies.

As a former chief whip he has long been seen as a key power broker for the Conservatives and a master of the dark art of manipulation, demonstrated by his appointment to the role of Defence Secretary having been asked by Theresa May to suggest a suitable candidate.   One can imagine the Sir Humphrey Appleby-esque response!

So where did the former Defence Secretary learn his Machiavellian ways?   Yes you guessed it – here at the University of Bradford!

A Brave New World?

A recent chance meeting with one of our our co-presidents at which UCU extended our offer to work collaboratively with her to rebuild relationships, led then to Branch officials meeting this week with the Vice Chancellor elect at her request.
Early reports from that meeting suggest that UCU is optimistic that campus unions will be recognised as key stakeholders under Shirley’s stewardship.
The new administration will be judged on what it does rather than what it says; agreement to reinstate Joint Committee is the first tangible evidence of that willingness to engage positively and proactively – a move that UCU applauds.

Do the Right Thing

As we move inexorably towards Bradford’s equivalent of the changing of the guard, what must be uppermost in minds must be how a new administration can reconnect positively with the University’s membership and rebuild the trust that has been sorely damaged, not only through BEP but also as a consequence of a succession of astonishing faux pas.

An interminably long and quite pointless tail to the present administration – coupled with that perplexing ‘ambassadorial’ swan song that some suspect is merely code for an overseas junket – is only the latest example of a clearly evidenced lack of recognition of the importance of doing the right thing at every stage.

One would hope then that while ever there is current or impending job insecurity, the University will exercise extreme caution when recruiting to vacant roles. Engaging new staff on the eve of job losses does nothing to convince the workforce of any real commitment to avoiding redundancy, and instead merely serves to reinforce a lack of trust in our leaders’ motives.

UCU believes that seeking to recruit from the existing workforce before opening the opportunity to external candidates would be a good first step if management are serious about rebuilding trust and confidence.

If only our leaders felt the same way…..