Athena SWAN and staff representation groups

After the university’s unsuccessful Athena SWAN application the Gender Equalities Working Group (GEWG) has been set up. Two members of the UCU committee along with other members of staff sit on this group.

We would encourage all members of staff to consider joining one of several staff groups, such as:

  • The LGBT+ group, which is active at City. Several UCU members attend the group’s meetings
  • The BME network, which meets tomorrow
  • The Staff Disability Network
  • Women @ City

For details check the City website www.city.ac.uk.

Education-Only Academic Contracts at City?

The report from Senate on 8 July mentioned the University’s plans to introduce a new education-only contract for academic staff, i.e. for those not engaged in research.

It also reported that the University was working with the unions on this. In fact, the previous week the UCU branch had been invited to a confidential discussion with the Deputy Vice-Chancellor about the plan to have a new education-only contract available (for new starters only) from September.

We voiced our opposition to any plan which permanently blocks off the option of research from any academic and which has the potential to create a two-tier system in academic contracts. By the following day however we were already hearing reports from some schools about plans to move existing staff onto such contracts.

This matter, along with the fact that academic role profiles which have still not been discussed with the unions, will be pursued at the Joint Consultation and Negotiations Board (JCNB) which next meets in August.

Notes from meeting on ARQM

Following our request for information from members on how ARQM (Annual Research Quality Monitoring) data is being used, we received a lot of useful information with which to engage management in a review of the process. Any information you send us will be treated anonymously. It is essential that we can give examples of how the process is being implemented across the university.

The UCU is committed to continuing to protect members of academic staff who are affected by ARQM. At our last meeting with the Pro-Vice Chancellor for research we highlighted several concerns regarding the accuracy and reliability of ARQM scores, concerns about scoring individuals’ performance, and discrepancies between the intended purposes and the actual uses of ARQM.

UCU ARQM meeting 140515 

Your new branch committee for 2015-16

Congratulations to the new branch committee for 2015-16 who were elected at the AGM on 9th June.

President Keith Simpson, Law
Vice President Chris Flood, SHS
Vice President Rebecca Lewis, LEaD
Secretary Morris Pamplin, LEaD
Membership Secretary Greg Wellington, SAS
Equality Officer Martin Chivers, SASS
Health and Safety Officer John Saunders, SHS
Health and Safety Officer Chantal Hill, SASS
Ordinary Member Rachel Cohen, SASS
Ordinary Member Grietje Baars, Law
Ordinary Member Hayley McBain, SHS
Ordinary Member Alison Macfarlane, SHS
Ordinary Member Leon Cuthbertson, Cass
Research Students’ Rep Swetha Bobba, MCSE

Minutes of the AGM will be available shortly.

AGM 2015 and Committee Posts

This year’s UCU AGM takes place on Tuesday 9th June at 5pm in C320.

Agenda
This year’s meeting will be held in two parts.  The first part will be open to all staff, with the following agenda items:
1.       Update and discussion on employee relations and the Vice Chancellor’s vision for the future of the University
2.       President’s report

The second part will be restricted to UCU members only, with the following agenda items:
3.       Minutes of the previous AGM
4.       Treasurer’s report
5.       Election of branch committee
6.       Any other business

After the meeting we will be adjourning to the Sekforde Arms for drinks and food, and we hope you will join us.

Elections
Officers and ordinary committee members are re-elected each year, with the new committee formally commencing on 1 September.

We welcome any enquiries from members about standing for the committee. There are a range of posts, which require different skills and entail different responsibilities:

President leads on all union- and employment-related activities the branch undertakes, chairs all general meetings and all committee meetings, and takes any other action on behalf of the committee.
Vice President takes on duties in the absence of the President and deputise for him/her.
Secretary calls general and committee meetings of the branch, circulates minutes of meetings, organises membership communications, and arranges notifications of local elections and ballot results to members.
Assistant Secretary takes on duties in the absence of the Secretary and deputises for him/her.
Treasurer has custody of the funds of the branch and makes payments as needed in accordance with the branch rules. The Treasurer keeps the books of the branch and presents the accounts of the branch for auditing as necessary, and presents the audited accounts to the AGM.
Membership Secretary is responsible for recruitment, for keeping membership records, and sending membership information to UCU head office or regional office.
Equalities Officer is responsible for staying up to date with relevant issues and monitoring development of equality policies within the institution, where appropriate encouraging and supporting local negotiations on equality matters. He or she monitors the casework relating to equality issues, supports members experiencing issues, and attends national and regional UCU meetings.
Health and Safety Officer represents UCU members on health and safety issues including participating in health and safety inspections and risk assessments, being the branch’s point of contact over health and safety issues, attending safety committee meetings, and investigating notifiable incidents.
Postgraduate Student Representative leads the branch committee’s work relating to postgraduate students. He or she is the primary point of contact for student members, the Student Union and UCU head office in relation to postgraduate student matters.
Ordinary Members sit on the committee and participate in the work of the branch as needed, including contributing to communications to members, attending meetings, sharing information from schools and services, and supporting union events.

As well as joining the committee, there are other ways you can get involved in the work of the branch, such as becoming a local rep. Local reps act as the link between members in their school or department and the committee. All types of skills and experience are valued.

Contact the secretary (morris.pamplin.1@city.ac.uk) if you would like more information on any of the committee posts or to find out more about becoming a rep.

Leaflet on ARQM distributed to Senate, 6/05/15

UCU members of Senate distributed the leaflet below to Senate on 6th May. The UCU has a meeting set up with the Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research and Enterprise on Thursday 14th. We are asking all academic members of staff to send us feedback on your views of the ARQM process, and how it has affected you or your department. You can send feedback to the Branch Secretary morris.pamplin.1@city.ac.uk. Any information you send will be used anonymously.

ARQM City UCU flyer

ARQM: Astonishingly Reckless Quality Monitoring

Our research ‘quality’ is being assessed by the ARQM in a way that is astonishingly reckless. The ARQM requires every ‘research active’ member of staff to submit their ‘best’ four publications from the last four years. These are now being rated and assigned a score (supposedly equivalent to the REF star ratings) and each member of staff will receive an ‘average’ between 0 and 4.

There are many problems with the ARQM, including:

  • Even the REF panels do not provide marks for individuals because they acknowledge that at the individual level scores are not reliable. It is only the aggregate score in which they even claim to have confidence. The ARQM therefore claims a level of accuracy that the (much criticised [1, 2, 3], but nonetheless much more rigorous) REF process didn’t claim.
  • During REF two experts, usually from a relevant disciplinary sub-field, review your publications. For ARQM one person (a ‘senior member of staff’) often entirely outside of your field or unversed in your research design or methods, assesses your work. They are being asked to make multiple assessments very quickly and not being granted additional support to do this. The validity of any assessments must therefore be extremely doubtful, something that we know has been raised by many senior staff involved in the rating process.
  • A rolling four year average is used. This means that if you published three great things in 2012 you only need one additional piece since then to have a 4* ARQM rating for the next two years. If you haven’t published sufficient new 4* pieces by 2015, you may then plummet to 1* or 2*. This variability makes no sense; we don’t suddenly become, or stop being, internationally excellent. Research is a process with publication peaks and troughs because research is cyclical. Moreover, so long as we publish four strong things within a REF cycle we will contribute to the University’s research excellence. Because we know this, many of us who already have four good publications, use the later years of a REF cycle to publish things we think are socially useful, even ‘impactful’, but not perhaps very REF-able (reports, chapters, reviews of the field, textbooks). The imposition of ARQM, with its endlessly rolling cycle, does not match the REF cycle, does not allow for lulls and punishes us for being good academic citizens.

ARQM not only produces a score without validity. It is also increasingly being employed in astonishingly reckless ways across the university. To put it bluntly, your ARQM is affecting your job. Already, it is being used, without consultation with the UCU or (as far as we can tell) ratification through Senate, as a means of determining:

  • Promotions and progression;
  • The hours of teaching staff do – workload distribution;
  • The ability of staff to apply for sabbatical leave;
  • The eligibility of staff to supervise PhD students.

Even if the ARQM accurately measures research outputs over the last four years (which as we note above is extremely doubtful), there is no reason to think that staff research will improve if those who performed at a lower level over the last few years now do more teaching and have less research time. Nor will people who score highly continue to prosper if they are required to supervise all our research students (and of course there is no reason to believe that a higher ARQM score makes you a better supervisor). Surely it is in the University’s and our interests if all staff experience the conditions to produce better research?

In short, the ARQM is a worthless process that is being used to remove discretion from departments and schools under a false guise of transparency. It has no place in academic decision making.