Anger as Queen Mary hunts for new recruits in midst of redundancy programme

Queen Mary, University of London is advertising for up to 30 new academic staff in a school that is in the midst of an acrimonious redundancy programme.

July 18, 2012

Eleven academics have been placed “at risk” of redundancy by Queen Mary’s School of Biological and Chemical Sciences after failing to meet metrics-based performance criteria, such as the number of papers published. Another nine have been placed on teaching-only contracts.

The school is now advertising for up to 30 “ambitious and outstanding scientists, who are able to further enhance our recognised strengths”.

The Queen Mary branch of the University and College Union has condemned the advert. In an email to members, the union claims the advertised positions are in “very similar areas of research and teaching” to those of the “at risk” staff – some of whom are still negotiating their redundancy terms.

The original restructuring proposals for the school envisaged expanding its head count from 72 to 74 by 2014 and to 84 by 2016.

But the 30 advertised posts, which include four professorships, would bring the head count to 91 if they were all filled. The new recruits will begin in January 2013 “or as soon as possible thereafter”.

According to the UCU, the discrepancy between the envisaged and actual figures provides “further evidence of not only the sham of the consultation process, but also the disgraceful way in which the college is treating some of its staff”.

The union expects to ballot members at Queen Mary within the next fortnight over strike action in protest at the redundancy programmes in both the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences and the School of Medicine and Dentistry – where, according to the UCU, more than 20 redundancies are currently being processed while posts are being advertised.

The advert for the posts at the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences says it “is committed to the Athena SWAN principles to promote women in science”.

However, according to Rachel Ashworth, a lecturer in the school, the statement contrasts with the “obvious gender discrimination” of five out of the school’s 10 female academics either being made redundant or transferred to teaching-only contracts.

Matthew Evans, head of the school, said: “We cannot discuss or comment on individual cases [but] we are committed to Athena SWAN…and the development of women in science.

“We intend to take as much advantage of the opportunity we now have to bring in and develop scientists, both men and women, and to attract those of high potential for the future.

“The combination of normal staff turnover alongside the changes we are making in the school means we have an opportunity to offer a range of roles to high-quality scientists at all stages of their careers.”

He added: “We intend to make the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences one of the highest regarded scientific communities in the UK, and this recruitment exercise is a step along that road.”

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