Insults added to injuries

February 13, 2014

We deeply regret the need for this letter but we cannot leave unchallenged comments by our vice-chancellor, Julius Weinberg (“Kingston v-c defends last post for principal lecturers and readers”, News, 2 January), about the process of application to associate professor status.

At Kingston University, existing Grade 10 academic staff (principal lecturers and readers) must apply to become an associate professor. We were told that academics involved “have already proved their ability to operate at this level” and that “the process is therefore designed to be ‘light touch’, minimising the required input for staff”. Candidates, successful or not, report that the application process took considerable time to complete; for rejected candidates, Weinberg’s comment that failure to make associate professor is simply a case of “several” people not taking their careers “…seriously enough” adds insult to injury.

There have been widespread problems with a process that staff have found “demoralising and disheartening” and “the worst experience of my career”. All those involved have been surprised by the paucity of feedback. Comments have contradicted advice given to candidates in preparatory workshops. The reasons given for rejection are arbitrary or unclear, and most bear little relation to the negotiated criteria.

V-c Weinberg’s comment that “some individuals who happened to be active in the union” are “confusing their own personal disappointment [with unhappiness about the process] and are stirring”, is clearly prejudicial to individual union officers, and also indicative of a dismissive attitude to the efforts of the University and College Union to negotiate in good faith in the interests of all academic staff at the university.

Greg Barnett
University and College Union regional official and Kingston University UCU branch committee

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