What do they have to hide? More on the “Up or Out” probation

The University of Birmingham management recently released further details of the “Up or Out” probation system to the BUCU committee, but has refused to allow us to share these details with our members. The University have now accused UCU of appearing “to have pre-empted the outcomes of our planned discussions”. This is an inaccurate depiction of what we have said.

For the sake of transparency, we detail below the concerns about this lack of transparency as we have relayed them to the University management. On both occasions our attempt to share information with BUCU members has been denied, with no explanation.

Sent: 15 March 2021 10:08
Dear UoB,

We have given this considerable thought and following much deliberation we do not believe that we can in good faith represent the views of our members until we have had a chance to circulate the probation document that has been presented to us.

To repeat, the introduction of the Birmingham Academic Career Framework has been done in a ‘creeping manner,’ in which more information is only released slowly and in partial form.  This drip-drip of partial information appears designed to elicit agreement from us on discrete elements of the framework without knowledge of its full implications.

This has now become blatantly clear with the promotion criteria discussed in the previous round of discussions – in which we were explicitly reassured that we weren’t witnessing the introduction of an “Up or Out” system; despite the fact that it has now become clear that this absolutely is what is being proposed.

Our branch has a clear commitment to democracy, transparent decision-making and accountability. For that reason we cannot in good faith attend a meeting to discuss documentation that has not been shared as part of this consultation with the University community as a whole. 

The probation document supplied is obviously of a very detailed nature and seems to suggest that there is a considerable body of additional documents related to the BACF proposal. Could we suggest that the best way to conduct these negotiations in a smooth and transparent fashion would be to share all of these documents with us at this stage, rather than waiting until later in what can only create the appearance of seeking to manage the release of information in such a way that we are constantly kept in the dark regarding the actual motives underpinning these reform proposals.

To be clear – we will need to do as follows:

1. Circulate this new document to our members (we are not willing to add further to the lack of transparency around these consultations)

2. Postpone Monday’s meeting for a period of at least one week from the time at which the document is circulated.

University of Birmingham Branch of UCU


Sent: 12 March 2021 13:25

Dear UoB,

This is a large amount of additional material and I’m afraid that we will need some time to seek further clarification from our members on the contents of this.

As you are probably aware, one of the issues that has come up in the consultation meetings is that staff members feel they have been duped by the fact that the earlier round of consultations over the promotion framework seemed to be about promotions – but now that we know that in fact the promotion framework is also the grounds upon which staff will be sacked if they fail to get promoted that obviously puts the earlier round of consultations in an entirely different light.

In other words, the earlier round of consultation was not done in a way that anyone would consider to be open or transparent, because a crucial piece of information – that we were in fact discussing the criteria for keeping your job, not the criteria for promotion – was concealed from the University community.

As you also know, we have been instructed by our members not to agree to any probation system that has a 1-year probation process in it. We had thought that the revised proposals you were preparing would include your thoughts on our suggestion for an automatic extension to 2-years for those who don’t pass within 1 year. This is what we agreed would be considered, at our last meeting. Yet there does not appear to be any details on this.

For these reasons we will need to do as follows:

1. Circulate this new document to our members (we are not willing to add further to the lack of transparency around these consultations)

2. Cancel Monday’s meeting and reschedule for at least one week from the time at which the document is circulated.

We note that you say that this document is not for circulation, so we will need you to also confirm that we can now circulate it, in order that we can gain members’ views.

University of Birmingham Branch of UCU

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