Members of UCU were invited to attend a meeting called by Unison to speak to members in scope of the in-progress Student & Academic Administration Review (first MARS and now StAAR!).
What was clear from the outset was that there was a strong feeling that the process was unfair, the impact on staff unjust, and that the potential impact on student experience was catastrophic.
Those who have attended StAAR briefings held over the last few days will be well aware that this is not an uncommon view. The new structure will lead to a number of job losses as well as significant salary cuts in particular at grade 5, with the attendant damage to morale (judged incidentally by the VC to be at around 8/10). There is no doubt that increased workload on lower pay will lead to lower morale and ultimately has the potential to damage the relationship that student facing staff have with students.
Equally as perplexing is the potential impact upon academics of having a demoralised administration team with less workload capacity to support them in the joint aim of providing the ‘excellence’ for students that we all aspire to. Without that support, more and more will inevitably be left in the hands of academics who are themselves facing ever increasing workloads.
Note also that a detailed assessment of roles reveals the interesting fact that it is student facing roles that are most likely to be downgraded – which is clearly at odds with the University’s stated aims to enhance student experience.
When quizzed about the apparent paradox of less staff, each doing more, the stock answer is that technology supported process improvement will deal with that.
All well and good, but given this University’s track record on systems implementation (attendance monitoring, centralised timetabling, etc.) one can see that unease about that as a solution is anything but misplaced.