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…..
Anyone who attempts to apply for the role of Head of School of Social Sciences will find that they are relocated to a head hunter page where the applicant can indicate their interest but cannot at this stage make an application. The reason? There is as yet no final job description for the post.
One wonders at the unseemly haste to find external candidates for an as yet undefined role for which only a title exists. Is it perhaps to avoid the role falling into the next stage of the BEP programme where it might be seen as an opportunity for existing staff within the School?
For the record UCU opposes the principle of recruiting new staff when there is the very real prospect of job insecurity within months of appointments being made. Increasing headcount in a landscape of job cuts is both bizarre and some might suggest cynical in its nature.
It is Grand National weekend, that world renowned festival of horse racing that often divides opinion. There is the excitement of the chase, the chance to win or lose your shirt, and the sheer energy of the event that some find compelling. Others fear the worst in what is unquestionably a gruelling and unforgiving event with potential disaster at every stage.
Regardless of your personal views, everyone who watches does so with anticipation, hoping above all that the first leap is achieved without fault and that the jockeys can kick on with the confidence that clearing that first difficult hurdle brings.
At Bradford that metaphorical first hurdle appears to have been fudged, with the clear ground after the fence pushed out into the middle distance. We can ill-afford to be flailing around in the air. Our “jockey” needs to regain control quickly and land the jump or we could find ourselves further down the field than we would have hoped.
Many will recall that when Prof Cantor was appointed as Vice Chancellor sometime in the early Summer he was unable to assume his role immediately, preferring instead to take the reins at the start of the academic year.
Helpfully (at least in the eyes of some), the outgoing VC Prof Mark Cleary declared himself ready and willing to remain as operational head in the interregnum. Prof Cantor was though less than enthusiastic, preferring instead that the institution fall back on the second tier of management to “hold the fort”. Prof Cleary hastily “exited stage left” and the University was left rudderless for much of the Summer.
Fast forward then to April 2019. We have an appointed replacement Vice Chancellor in Professor Congdon who it would appear is rather more relaxed about the ongoing influence of the outgoing incumbent than was Prof Cantor.
Prof Congdon’s appointment was only possible due to the stepping down of Prof Cantor. That resignation came as a direct result of an overwhelming declaration of no confidence – a clear indication of his failings as a leader. It is perplexing therefore to see that the same robust approach used by Prof Cantor at the beginning of his term is not being equally applied now.
Regime change needs to be clear and unequivocal if we are to rebuild trust, and that change needs to start immediately.
Recent news that Prof Congdon has been appointed to the position of VC may well have elicited a nigh on compulsory (at least in comedy terms) exclamation of ‘you can’t be serious!’.
Airplane (mis)quotes aside, the general view seems to be that the appointment has potential, although some may well worry that an opportunity for a new approach has been missed by appointing from the existing management ranks.
The previous regime took the hardest line possible (in writing at least) with their approach to strikes. Bradford was one of only a handful of institutions threatening to withhold 100% of pay for ‘partial performance’. This didn’t come to pass, but if it was indeed an empty threat, we cannot understand why any organisation would choose to alienate its members in such a way?
How to approach any relationship is a choice. We hope that the new VC will choose to respect University’s membership and engage with us, rather than threaten us for what seems like little mutual benefit.
UCU is happy to congratulate Prof Congdon on her appointment and looks forward now to a new dawn of constructive industrial relations without the spectre of intimidation that occasionally cast its shadow over those of us who sought to protect the rights of ourselves and our colleagues through protest.
UCU understands that as Chair of Council Baroness Taylor has something approaching a duty to bid farewell to the deposed leader as she welcomes the new incumbent.
In such circumstances however, a careful choice of words is essential to avoid that farewell being seen as in some way sycophantic or disingenuous.
It is disappointing then to read the Chair of Council’s somewhat perplexing ‘strength to strength’ description of Prof Cantor’s contribution to the University.
There is no doubt that Prof Cantor has had an impact – clearly though our view is somewhat at odds with that of the Baroness!
As VC recruitment interviews loom, it might be worth taking a look at this short video on the BBC website….