Stars and martyrs

November 29, 2012

Mahesan Niranjan ("Star-spangled clangers", Letters, 22 November) criticises the current fashion among vice-chancellors to recruit "big hitters" so as to enhance their university's research excellence framework submissions, particularly the fact that such appointments tend to offer reduced teaching loads, thereby increasing the pedagogic burden on existing staff.

His words closely reflect my own experience. Two such back-door appointments have recently been made in my department at a Russell Group university.

Both involve academics whose main fields of expertise and research interests are not represented among existing students at any level, and neither of the scholars is attracting doctoral candidates or has brought any with them.

Meanwhile, there are staff in the department who are struggling to supervise 10 or more doctoral candidates apiece while also teaching large numbers of undergraduate and master's students - and being REF active to boot.

I can only hope our vice-chancellor will eventually come to realise what the rank and file have known all along: that such appointments tend to benefit few except the appointees themselves.

However, as Niranjan observes, given that our leaders are so removed from the day-to-day reality of their staff, this is unlikely.

Name and address withheld.

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