Published: 9th March, 2021
The University executive board wishes to make redundant seven people who work in the Leicester Learning Institute. Here, one member of that team – supposedly not ‘directly impacted’ – shares their horror.
The Education Services business case is shockingly inept. My colleagues and I are also shocked by the secrecy, the evasion and the disinformation campaign that the executive board is mobilising to try and quickly push through this business case and its seven redundancies.
We would love to share more widely the business case. It will impact every colleague who teaches, it will impact heads of school, line managers and directors of learning and teaching. They need to see what’s in store for them. But our requests have been ignored and we have been warned against breaking ‘confidentiality’. Yes, those ‘confidentiality’ warnings have come with threats.
But what we can share with you is our counterproposal. This identifies the problems – the TITANIC problems – with the business case. I would recommend you dive in and have a look. You will likely be amazed – and as horrified as us. But as many of you are hard-pressed, defending our jobs, our academic freedom, and simply surviving a pandemic and lockdown, here is a condensed version.
On the outside, the Education Services business case (especially the slide show currently being presented to schools) appears to be an innocuous restructuring of teams into threads for excellence. It proposes greater focus on and integration between data analysis, educational strategy, policy making, quality control and compliance. It claims to pursue several laudable aims around reducing the BAME awarding gap, improving progression for students from widening participation backgrounds, and making education more inclusive.
The Education Services business case obtusely refuses to even identify what roles and responsibilities are covered by the staff whose jobs are at risk. It appears the managers who wish to sack my colleagues don’t actually know what those colleagues actually do! In fact they do a lot.
When we have asked who will take on these (many) responsibilities, the responses have been either ‘schools’ or ‘the new Leicester Institute for Inclusivity in Higher Education’. We’ve also been told that ‘there will be a strategic review of academic professional development at the end of the year’. When colleagues in teaching departments and schools have raised questions, they have been told that ‘nothing is fixed’ and the ‘consultation process is ongoing’.
What we can tell you is that it’s a sector norm to provide a team of curriculum designers, learning developers, learning technologists, and staff to support academic professional development around teaching. We already have a desperately small team, but the intention is to get rid of everyone, unless they have ‘digital’ in their job titles. How can a university enhance teaching when it doesn’t employ people who specialise in the many different facets of education?
The Education Service will retain power – over policy making, data analysis and compliance. But responsibility will be shunted onto you, dear colleagues, staff in departments and schools, who will be forced to deliver externally determined objectives without support.
The University is required to report to the Higher Education Statistics Agency the proportion of teaching staff with appropriate qualifications. The University is also required by its own Probation Ordinance to offer suitable training to new lecturers. Whilst the policy states this is the responsibility of heads of school and line managers, in practice for many years it’s the educationalists of the Leicester Learning Institute who have delivered this, by offering, for example, the PG Certificate of Academic Practice and PEERS. Who will deliver this professional quality training now? Not only does it require time, but it must be delivered by people with the appropriate educational qualifications.
Recently the University of Leicester submitted an Access and Participation Plan to the Office for Students. This commits teaching staff and programme and module leaders to developing support for transition and progression. But to develop such support for students, especially given the ways in which study and assessment have changed during the pandemic, colleagues in teaching departments will require the specialised advice and assistance of learning developers. These learning developers are now at risk of redundancy. Who will take their place?
One final example, though there are many more within our counter business case. The University leadership has quite rightly pledged to reduce the BAME and other awarding gaps. It has also pledged to decolonise the curriculum. These are complex issues. Dedicated experts are required to help teaching staff work out what this means in their specific contexts – and how to implement the solutions. At present, most of these dedicated experts are to be found in the Leicester Learning Institute and they are doing much of this important work. The same leadership that has made these pledges wants to make redundant the very people necessary to transform the pledge into reality.
The University’s Executive Board is trying to force through these changes as quickly as possible. But the business case is being kept secret. The Executive Board wants to avoid it being scrutinised by Senate, ordinary members of Council, heads of school and directors of learning and teaching – all of whom have with a very valid interest in knowing what is being proposed.
To make an already bad situation much worse, the redundancy timeline has been engineered to force at-risk staff to either take Voluntary Severance or apply for one of these ‘nothing is fixed’ proposed posts by March 22nd. That is only two weeks from now – but the formal consultation process continues for a further five weeks after that. In other words, we are in the middle of a consultation process that must, according to University Ordinances, last 90 days. The University executive is repeatedly insisting that this consultation process is ‘ongoing’ and ‘nothing is decided’. Yet, it is putting at-risk staff under extreme pressure to jump before the end of this process.