Press coverage- Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 28.06.17

Coverage of the cuts has been outlined in an article in the ‘Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung’ 28.06.2017.  The article, written by Christian Goeschel, describes the moment more than 900 employees of UoM received the news by email that 171 jobs  would be at risk as a result of ‘restructuring’. The article expresses disdain for UoM’s decision and shows that they believe the cuts are unnecessary. In the final line Goeschel says “the new higher education model makes British universities into companies, where lecturers are degraded to service personnel and made to follow the instructions of  managers” .

 

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Open letter from members of staff from across the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures, University of Manchester, 27th June 2017

Open letter from members of staff from across the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures, University of Manchester, 27th June 2017;

To the senior leadership team:

We write to express our strong opposition to the measures announced by Prof. Dame Nancy Rothwell and Prof. Colin Bailey on 10 May in pursuit of the Manchester 2020 agenda. They state that ‘The University of Manchester has a bold ambition to be a world leading institution, with a reputation based on academic excellence.’ We share that ambition. However, we reject the arguments made to justify the proposed job cuts in our own School and elsewhere, and condemn the manner of their announcement.

We take issue with two attempts at justification in particular:

The Student Experience. The proposed ‘reduction of 35 academic posts and posts involved in primarily academic activities’ is in part driven by the belief that ‘[i]n the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures, an increase in undergraduate student entry standards will lead to improved student experience and outcomes’ (President and Deputy President). However, we have seen evidence neither of a correlation between higher entry requirements and increased levels of student satisfaction, nor that higher entry tariffs will help the School to score more highly in the Teaching Excellence Framework. Indeed, in order to succeed in the TEF the University will need to demonstrate its ability to make high-achieving graduates out of more modestly successful school leavers. Furthermore, raising entry tariffs across the board is likely to hinder the institution’s capacity to deliver one of the core strategic goals of the M2020 strategy to which members of SALC are especially committed – Social Responsibility. Overly restrictive entry tariffs potentially present a barrier to access to education for people coming from disadvantaged and underrepresented backgrounds.

‘Sustainable Excellence’. SALC is rightly proud of its international reputation for excellence in teaching and research. Amidst current political and economic uncertainties, it is more important than ever ‘to safeguard the core mission of the University and its integrity as a collegiate community’, as the President and Deputy President put it. The announced job losses, the failure to consult with campus trade unions, and the designation of individual members of staff as ‘in scope’ will already have damaged the University’s reputation as an employer and its capacity to attract and retain the best-qualified staff in future, not least through its proposal to ‘create 100+ new, early-career academic appointments’ and ‘a £1million “Investing in Success” fund for existing staff’. Furthermore, we echo the dismay expressed by our PhD students and early career researchers who note the divisive nature of this exercise (‘Open letter from the PhD students and early career academics of the University of Manchester to the management’).

So far we have received no convincing explanation of why, given the relatively small savings that will be made by the proposed job cuts and the University’s current apparently sound financial position, these steps have to be taken. In any case, we consider the steps themselves to be brutal; they represent a further powerful blow to both the principle of collegiality and the institutional goodwill members of the School have always prided themselves on.

We call on the Senior Management Team of the institution to withdraw its threats to the job security of our colleagues, to consult with the UCU over its plans for the future in the appropriate manner, and to pursue the M2020 agenda in a way that fosters and encourages academic excellence, rather than through the draconian measures it is now pursuing.

 

Sincerely,

(Names omitted) 

 

 

 

Student Testimony- anon

As a student who has just finished my time as a languages undergraduate at Manchester, it was saddening and painful to hear of the plans to cut 171 positions, which will undoubtedly affect many of the lecturers and staff who have supported me throughout the past four years. After almost becoming a school refuser in my teens, to battling mental health issues and learning to cope with a physical disability, it was only at university that I first began to come out of my shell. I will forever be indebted to the languages teaching staff for this, who were always on hand to offer both academic and pastoral support, embodying the strong pastoral values that the university values so highly.
Thanks to the irreplaceable language staff, I have achieved things which I never imagined I would, whether it be winning various awards at the university, finding the strength to continue battling my health issues or taking the first steps towards my plans following graduation. All the staff in the languages departments are true assets to the university and their actions often go beyond the ‘call of duty’ or their job descriptions, which shows how truly committed they are to student excellence. Creating graduates of the highest calibre involves so much more than simply teaching a language or delivering content courses.
In this respect, the language staff are the glue that hold the department together, often dedicating their own time outside the seminar room to enrich our experience and really give us a flavour of the cultural life of our target language country, whether be this encouraging us to enter the ‘Great German Bake Off’ or organising trips to the Christmas markets to enjoy a Glühwein and Brezen with us. Cutting these jobs will mean more than just cutting contracts. Behind the numbers and statistics are real people, with real lives and passions; people who are dedicated not just to their jobs, but to the many students whose lives they change for the better. Yes, they help us to grow as linguists and intellectuals. But more importantly they help us to grow as people and members of society.
Passionate as I am about all those who have supported me throughout my degree, I also firmly believe that languages and academia are and will continue to be pertinent on a wider social scale. Research, debate, sharing ideas between colleagues and like-minded intellectuals – all these are key motors to push for change in an ever-evolving society and necessary to meet the demands of the future. The decision by the university to cut 171 positions seems particularly targeted at the language departments, yet it is equally a decision that seems rather ill-timed and potentially short-sighted. With the changing world following political events of the last year (and yes, Brexit springs to mind especially), communication, interaction and negotiation with our European neighbours and fellow countries on a more global scale – in South America, China, Japan or the Arab States – will become increasingly important. For an institution which is part of the ‘prestigious Russell Group’ and which claims to be dedicated to educating some of the UK’s leading graduates to face the challenges of the future, the decision to cut positions at the exact moment when language teaching may be needed most has the potential to be a rather ill-considered move.
These cuts are a serious matter, and something we should not take lightly. They cut to the heart of our very community, and I would urge every student to do what you can to encourage the university to reconsider this saddening decision.

Student testimony: Stuart Dunlop

As the first in my family to attend university, I consider my time at the University of Manchester as a student of languages an invaluable experience. I have gained fond memories, friends and colleagues, and am now considering career prospects I could never have dreamed of just four years ago. However, what I am about to write was not merely my success, but that of the University’s staff and resources which, according to those I have neither met nor received any advice from, are now not necessary for their view of ‘excellence’.
When I arrived in 2013, I was undergoing major family difficulties owing to the long-term illness and eventual death of a direct parent. This was also unaided by trepidation towards the cost of student life, coming from an economically disadvantaged region. Thanks to this, I was diagnosed with low mood and debilitating anxiety, and, over the first two semesters, very nearly caused myself further psychological and physical harm through compulsive over-studying. However, it was thanks to the advice of the staff in both the German and Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies departments that I was capable enough to prioritise my health, while still retaining the grades I could achieve.
Through the attention, engagement and encouragement of these professional members of staff, I was able to improve my strengths and handle my weaknesses. As a result, I have attained high marks in each of my academic years, participated in two German-language theatre productions as part of the acclaimed Palaver International Festival, and was able to enjoy an enriching year abroad, working in Cologne and studying at the University of Coimbra in the 2015-16 academic year. The latter experiences were entirely new and daunting challenges, which would not have been surmountable without the support I had received.
Upon my return, I was able to try new things and find my niche in translation. As a result, I am now able to confidently pursue a MA in Translation and Interpreting, with an interest in maintaining contact with the other departments in SALC. Most recently, I received the first prize in the Wiener Library Translation competition as part of the Oxford German Olympiad, a national competition run by Oxford University. This competition was brought to my attention by the German department staff at the University of Manchester, and thus, I owe a great thanks to them for this opportunity.
I am aware that this represents a personal experience, rather than charts and statistics. However, this only adds to the value of what I have to say. Without the ambition of this department, I myself could not have grown. I had hoped, after my graduation, to use this period of my life as an example, to encourage modern languages to younger students through my story, and to embrace the communication I consider integral to a functional society.
This decision by the University to vivisect the staff numbers of this department severely damages this hope, and goes completely against my principles as someone who views communication and knowledge as fundamental elements of human experience. If the proposed cuts had occurred during my first year, I doubt I would have achieved at all, and represents a waste of resources, both for the student and the university body. I have gained through the multitude of offers given to me, both in knowledge and personal character, and have never once heard talk of irrational financial risks taken for these offers. If the University of Manchester prioritises arbitrary profits over these assets, it will lose its influence and resources in the long-term, as will its students, its remaining staff, and the worldwide academia which it wishes to represent.

Open letter to the board of governors, signed by 198 academics

Recently there has been mention in the media of an open letter addressed to the board of governors and signed by 198 professors. Below you can find the articles, along with a copy of the letter itself (with the signatures omitted) .

Here you can access an article by the Guardian, ‘Manchester University professors sign letter of no confidence over cuts’ , 5 June 2017

And here you can access an article by the Manchester Evening News, ‘University of Manchester professors express no confidence in management over job cuts’,6 June 2017

 

 30th May 2017

Dear Mr Astle and Members of the Board of Governors

We are writing as Professors (198 of us) in the University to raise our concerns about the 171 redundancies that are being proposed by the Senior Leadership Team (SLT) under the M2020 strategy. The proposals were outlined in a letter from the President to all staff on 10th May and we are now told that the SLT wants the negotiations completed by the end of June. We would be grateful if you would share this letter with the rest of the Board and ask for the plan to be paused and the threat of compulsory redundancy removed, so that all stakeholders can develop a more measured, carefully planned and less confrontational strategy.  

The proposals put forward by the SLT and previously approved were justified with the assertion that they would secure the future financial sustainability of the University, improve the student experience and create the financial headroom for strategic investment. However, in our view the proposed redundancies are unjustified and are being imposed in an ill-considered way that will massively damage the morale of staff, their commitment to the University and its national and international reputation.

Management has made power point presentations to staff but the SLT has not provided us with any public, detailed, evidence-based justification for its actions; and, if the SLT has not provided the Board with such a plan, that surely raises issues about governance. Given the scale and scope of the changes, we could reasonably expect a substantial report containing a problem definition, laying out evidence and choosing amongst several alternative courses of action with financial costs. This is what SLT expects from those of us in operating units when asking for investment; why does SLT not apply the same standards to justifying M2020?

We do know there is no urgent financial requirement to reduce the academic headcount at the University. The financial statements, which you signed off as Chair of the Board, show we have a healthy operating surplus and sufficient reserves to meet most unforeseen eventualities. It has also been conceded that the financial savings from making 171 staff redundant and then re-employing 100 additional staff are negligible in an institution that has a £1 billion turnover.

Further, events in recent years have raised increasing doubts about SLT’s ability to formulate and execute strategy as it must if it is to outperform other Russell Group Universities and become a world class institution.  We are concerned about the abortive restructure of IT services in 2015, which led to the embarrassing breakdowns in IT systems at the beginning of this academic year, the failed REF strategy in 2014 and the failure to evaluate the results of previous restructures undertaken since 2011.

The SLT determined the REF 2014 entry strategy which led to a loss of HEFCE grant income so that the University is worse off by £14.3 million in the first year with losses cumulating over the six years until the next REF. We also note that in the six years from 2011-16, the University spent £25 million pounds on restructuring and early retirement.  We note that senior management has not accepted any responsibility for the REF outcome nor has it commissioned any independent evaluation of past restructuring programmes before embarking on another larger redundancy programme.

We are also concerned that the £1 billion rebuilding programme has increased non-staff costs in a way that is uncontrolled and has not been scrutinised sufficiently. The University has made very little disclosure but the total cost of the programme in lost income or service charges can be estimated at least £40 million each year for 40 years. The accounts show that cash interest charges in 2016 already stand at £30 million.

When pressed in meetings, management falls back on the argument that their proposals are necessary to deal with underperformance. Any organisation should have properly managed procedures to deal with under-performance by individuals without resorting to blanket redundancy projects. The criteria that are being used to identify underperforming units are poorly defined and will not allow the principled selection of individuals. The selection of staff ‘at risk’ of redundancy is based on narrow metric criteria, whilst the use of such metrics (even in more sophisticated forms) has been entirely rejected by the REF panels.  Individuals are now being panicked into taking voluntary severance because, if too few colleagues take the voluntary offer, the rump will get the bare statutory minimum.

Of course, this university needs to improve its performance in crucial areas like teaching. But, the reasons for our poor scores in the NSS, which will underpin the TEF, are complex and include poor infrastructure, poor student feedback , how teaching is organised and how students interact with their teachers. Our staff student ratios are broadly in line with our full service competitors like Warwick and there is no evidence that culling staff and reducing student cohorts will improve the quality of teaching or the metrics for student experience, attainment, retention and employability which count in the new TEF. It is likely that the widespread damage to staff morale associated with the proposed redundancies will be detrimental to the student experience.

From the argument and evidence above, our conclusion is that SLT is adept at blaming the staff and is not taking its share of responsibility for performance. On M2020, SLT is behaving in an ill-considered and unjustified way.

In consequence, we and a substantial number of other academics have no confidence in senior management. We have all invested significantly in our university and are concerned about the significant damage to internal staff morale and external reputation, which will follow inevitably if the Board does not restrain the management.

Yours sincerely,

(signatures omitted)

 

You can still sign our petition to show your support here

UNI FLOYD

Thursday 1st June saw the birth of the much anticipated ‘Uni Floyd’, an attempt to unite students and staff against the 171 proposed job cuts, under the genius of Pink Floyd’s ‘Another Brick in the Wall’. With specially written lyrics in hand, a backing track was put down to use in Monday’s singing protest.

On Monday 5th June, staff and students stood united against the cuts outside the Alan Gilbert Learning Commons on Oxford Road. Not even the Manchester drizzle could dampen their spirits. They stood defiant and proud whilst they sang their hearts out to Dame Nancy and the board of governors.

Jade, a student who attended both events said,”It was amazing to see so many staff and students join us, especially considering the Mancunian weather! “THE UNIversiTY OF MANCHESTER” slogan couldn’t have been truer really – the fact that students and staff across so many departments worked together on this project was actually quite inspirational. It just goes to show how much students value their staff, and the lengths that staff here are willing to go to for their students. I don’t understand how anyone could want to destroy that, which is what these cuts would do.”

A member of staff added, “Unfortunately, I couldn’t be at the outside protest myself but I was part of the project in that I helped singing at the backing track. I watched the protest on Facebook Live, though, and it was very moving for me. Seeing my colleagues and my students united, singing their hearts out, made me very proud to be a part of this. At Manchester, we have a very special relationship between staff and students and it definitely shows in difficult times like these, where everyone stands up in unity against a great injustice. Our students have put in so much effort and it is extraordinary for them to spend their free time fighting for lecturers’ jobs. It just shows the special bond between staff and students here and it would be an absolute disgrace to destroy this community in favour of ‘financial headroom'”

The ‘official’ music video can be accessed here

The live stream version of the event can be accessed via our Facebook: @resistrestructuringmanchester

And don’t forget there’s other ways to make your voice heard. You can still sign our petition: https://www.change.org/p/dame-nancy-rothwell-scrap-staff-redundancies-at-university-of-manchester