Academics fight Birmingham’s plan to cut time for research

Today (19 March 2019), the Times Higher Education reported on the growing staff anger in the College of Arts and Law (CAL) over management plans to cut the basic amount of time that academics spend on “unfunded research” from a third to a quarter and Birmingham’s UCU action to defend staff.

The article notes:

Under proposals circulated at the University of Birmingham, academics in its College of Arts and Law would see the time allocated to research reduced from a third to a quarter as part of potential changes to workload models from September.

Meanwhile, the college would increase time allocations for grant submission and other research-related activities, such as editing journals, as it aims to double its annual grant awards by 2026.

Other alternative proposals under consideration include making study leave and promotion dependent on grant acquisition.

A spokesperson for Birmingham’s University and College Union branch said:

The plan to remove a quarter of the research time available to staff represented an attack on the “three-legged model” of academia, in which lecturers split their time equally between teaching, research and administration.

“It’s a blow to the cornerstone of the research-intensive university,” he said, adding that staff “already struggle to keep our teaching and admin workload down to two-thirds of our working time, and most of us work well over our paid hours in order to keep up”.

Many academics feared that the plans would “ultimately lead to a two-stream system in which only some academics are given time to do research”, he continued.

“How can we continue to call ourselves a research-intensive university if this is our strategic direction of travel?” he asked, calling the plans a “betrayal of the ambitions of a research-led institution”.

Birmingham UCU has demanded Professor Whitby answers a set of questions about the proposed changes to staff workload.

The branch has also arranged an open meeting on workload changes for tomorrow, 20 March, 12-1pm, Law 219. The meeting is open to all staff in CAL, not just UCU members, and is designed to give staff the opportunity to discuss the proposed changes and how best to respond to them. Staff who are unable to attend the meeting can still contribute their ideas by emailing admin@birminghamucu.org.

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Read the full article here: https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/academics-fight-birminghams-plan-cut-time-research (paywall)

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