Performance management – our key objections

November 1, 2012 § 5 Comments

Whilst “performance management” sounds like vacuous management-speak, we detail here the more invidious elements of it as it is
being imposed at the University of Birmingham, and why we seek to oppose it:

• Unreasonable target-setting.

Many of the targets being imposed on staff are done inan arbitrary way, with no regard for workload implications, the impact on academic freedom, on equalities issues, or consistency.

• The disciplining of staff who fail to meet arbitrary targets. These are often imposed and evaluated without the prior knowledge of the staff member concerned, and result in written warnings or final written warnings.

• Ordinance 3.21.5, which was designed to be invoked as a support mechanism when staff had fallen below the minimum standards of performance, is now routinely used to threaten, bully and impose unreasonable targets upon staff – this is referred to  variously around the University as ‘Personal Best, ‘Advice and Guidance’, and/or ‘Counselling’ – but in each case it fails to adhere to the process set out in the Ordinance, lacks any form of support or mentoring, and is arbitrarily invoked without any consideration for the ‘minimum satisfactory performance’ criterion.

• Equalities implications – to our knowledge the majority of victims of this arbitrary performance management scheme have protected characteristics under the Equality Act – i.e. they are not white, UK-born, heterosexual men.

• Concerns over the use of student feedback forms (Module Evaluation Questionnaires) which we believe will result in staff being disciplined if they are unpopular – and in one case that we already know of a staff member has been given a formal written warning for his teaching, despite achieving an average grade above 70%. The University’s explanation for this is that ‘students can teach themselves’ and thus high levels of students passing modules with high grades is not evidence of good teaching.

• Staff being forced onto teaching-only contracts – and in some cases being coerced into going through a sham application process for those contracts, despite not actually wanting to apply.

• A refusal to abide by the agreement reached with BUCU, that no staff would be disciplined for failure to be submitted to the REF.

• A refusal to abide by the notification given to BUCU, that any staff achieving 8* or higher in their REF estimations would be
considered ‘research active’ and therefore not subjected to discipline.

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