UCU Opposes Cut Backs
By Ryan McNally
On November 24th, lecturers at Queen‘s University met outside the Lanyon Building to protest a proposal that would see financial targets imposed on individual staff members as part of an academic standards section of new contracts. This would leave responsibility for gaining funding with each individual lecturer. Academics who fail to meet funding demands would be threatened with a ‘capability procedure‘.
A meeting of the university’s senate, the target of the protest, was due to take place in the building but was subsequently moved to the Graduate School where protesters followed.
In regards to the proposals, a spokesperson from the University and College Union, which represents academic staff, said “This was done without meaningful consultation with all of the academic staff.” The proposals will result in an increased workload for academic staff who are already becoming increasingly stretched amidst an atmosphere of cuts and job losses.
On top of this, Queen‘s announced 148 voluntary redundancies. These issues are connected. They are part of the university’s strategy to deal with the loss of £8m in funding from the Department of Employment and Learning, announced in April. This comes in despite a large reserve available to Queen’s management, which could be utilised to mediate against the effects of the cuts. Queen’s management has out-right accepted neo-liberalism,Their acceptance of budget cuts and continual push towards making the university being profit-driven is displayed blatantly here.
Of course, the impact of financial targets on staff is potentially severe, but it’s not only an issue for staff. Students are likely to suffer too, with lecturers spending more time on chasing grants and less on teaching. In order for any action opposing the changes to be effective it’s important that student organisations realise this and show solidarity with the staff in question.
This is an issue for society at large, and it’s important to view these extreme profit-driven measures within the larger context – a context of vicious Westminster and Stormont austerity. As brutal and unacceptable as the proposed ‘academic standards’ are, they’re simply an ugly symptom of a system ideologically obliged to cut public spending. The implementation of individual funding targets should be opposed at every turn but we cannot defeat them unless we build a challenge to all the cuts coming into education. That requires building a movement of staff, students and workers to protect jobs and fight for fully-funded, public education, free at the point of the use and democratically run.
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