Posted tagged ‘University of Leeds’

Junior professing

January 20, 2012

So here we go, then. Trinity College Dublin is looking for some junior law lecturers. But that’s not what the College is saying: its announcement suggests they are looking for two ‘Assistant Professors’. Anyone studying the further particulars may get a sense that the successful candidate is likely to be nearer the beginning than the end of their career, but then again, there is no explicit statement in there to point out that these ‘professors’ are different from those that might work in other Irish universities.

Of course all this is a consequence of the College’s decision, mentioned here some time ago, that from now on all its lecturing staff will be ‘professors’ of one kind or another. While there are one or two other universities in these islands (Warwick and Nottingham specifically) that have adopted a similar practice, for now most have not. I confess I have no strong views in the matter one way or another, but believe that such changes should be made system-wide, not by individual institutions. No matter how good those institutions think they are. Bless them.

*****

PS. A colleague commenting on this post on Twitter has drawn attention to something even more baffling. Leeds University is converting senior lecturers and Readers to ‘Associate Professors’, but is not allowing holders of these posts to call themselves by that title, internally or externally:

‘As part of this process existing Senior Lecturers or Readers will be allowed to retain their existing title or can choose to switch to the new title.  Grade 9 staff in research focused roles may be able to transfer to the Associate Professor title where they can demonstrate that they have made a sufficient contribution to learning and teaching and teaching focused staff may be able to transfer to the new title where they can demonstrate a sufficient contribution to research or scholarship.

The Associate Professor title is linked to the role and not an individual title.  Individuals will continue to be addressed as ‘Dr X’ or other appropriate title and would not be expected to present themselves as ‘Associate Professor X’ (or ‘Professor X’) internally or externally.’

So what  on earth is the point of that?

Staffing – the critical question

November 16, 2009

In the University of Leeds in Yorkshire, employees are to be balloted on strike action after the university announced that it was reducing staff numbers by 10 per cent as part of a cost saving plan. The University and College Union (UCU) has argued that the cut, if implemented, would move Leeds to the bottom of the university league table on its staff-student ration, which is a key criterion determining the overall rankings. The university has disputed this, pointing out that other universities are also reducing staffing.

Regardless of the merits or otherwise of the Leeds University plan, this story raises again a question that will ultimately affect all higher education institutions. Cuts in public expenditure are producing serious university budgets cuts in a number of countries, and as the main cost in higher education is is pay, it is clear that as cuts are introduced universities will have little choice but to reduce staffing levels. In Ireland we have the added feature that the so-called ‘employment control framework’ is requiring institutions to cut staff numbers.

Assuming that this will remain a continuing process and that therefore the student to staff ration will continue to get worse, we need to have a clear strategy as to how we will cope with that. One response, at least in theory, would be to commit to raising additional external funds so as to be able to maintain current levels (or better). However, the financial climate globally makes it unlikely that such funds could be secured. Another option would be to accept the trend and to look instead at whether a model of teaching could be developed which is less staff-intensive but still capable of delivering excellent results.

Over the coming year a number of universities will face acute financial stress, and will certainly be tempted to look again at the salary bill. And perhaps there is a model of higher education out there that emphasises staffing levels less than we have been inclined to. But what is not desirable is that we accept the staffing reductions and absorb them, and then do everything we did before but with fewer staff; instead we could look at alternative teaching methods and examples elsewhere of good practice with successful results in terms of student achievement.

But we need to be clear that we are now fast approaching a situation in which the old assumptions about higher education are becoming unsustainable. Rather than tackling the traditional model by stealth we should have a plan for the future development of the sector in the context of necessary exchequer adjustments.


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