Jobs set to go as business school ‘disestablishes’ professoriate

University of Salford says ‘consultation is ongoing’ with eight professors in its business school as ‘newly focused research strategy’ is implemented

February 25, 2020
Sacked employee puts items in box

A UK business school’s plan to “disestablish” the professoriate could see all its senior researchers lose their roles, staff said.

The University of Salford, which reported a £28.9 million deficit for 2018-19, confirmed that “consultation is ongoing” with eight professors in its business school following the development of a “newly focused research strategy”. The school’s website lists nine serving professors, although one holds the role of associate dean for research and innovation.

Paul Maggs, the University and College Union branch secretary at Salford, said members were “shocked and demoralised”.

“We are deeply concerned that our employer has chosen to disestablish and decimate the professoriate in the school, towards the latter end of the REF [research excellence framework] 2021 cycle, placing a huge amount of stress and anxiety on academic staff preparing for REF submissions,” Mr Maggs said.

Submissions for the REF are already open, ahead of the November 2020 deadline. Significantly, even if professors are made redundant, Salford will still be able to submit their work for assessment under new rules.

Mr Maggs warned that the cuts would “further undermine the diversity of our academic workforce” and would increase pressure on the researchers who remain.

“We have informed our employer that our members’ mental health is at serious risk due to excessive and unmanageable workloads, including research,” he said. “The decision to disestablish professorial roles at such a difficult time serves only to increase this, with the loss of such a large number of highly experienced and respected professors.”

Salford Business School’s website lists 83 members of academic staff, of whom two are emeritus. The university’s deficit – which came after a £7.2 million surplus the previous year – is largely attributable to the revaluation of the Universities Superannuation Scheme pension fund and is expected to be reversed by a further revaluation.

A Salford spokeswoman said: “Salford Business School has developed a newly focused research strategy that aligns to the university’s industry collaboration priorities.

“As part of the implementation of the new research strategy, consultation is ongoing with eight of the professors within the business school. It would not be appropriate for the university to comment further as the consultation process is ongoing.”

chris.havergal@timeshighereducation.com

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Print headline: Business school’s shift downsizes professoriate

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Reader's comments (7)

This may be a bold move by Salford in the new context of academic research in Social Sciences and in the wider context of research generally. Is now the time fora brave new look at how research is conducted and an end to the current academic heirarchy and professorships? Today, in many sectors, there is an overlap in research done by companies and by universities. There are sectors where business research is ahead of academic research. Individual companies and individual universities in different countries are cooperating and competeing in different ways. It seems to me there is substantial "waste" of time and money linked to the present structure and process. There is confusion between "pure" / academic / theoretical research and industrial / business / commercial research. The confusion is made worse when we layer in the different sectors / subjects / disciplines. We need a rethink in our approach to the whole subject of research and greater clarity in our objectives.
Sorry, this is rubbish. It is a cost-cutting exercise by Salford, nothing more and nothing less.
Corporate research is rarely made public and as such does not benefit wider society as much as academic research. Companies are driven by profit, not by curiosity or social agenda. Taxpayers' money should fuel research which benefits society and well-being of people who ultimately are paying for it. If particular universities want to "rethink" their obligations related to the quality of research, they should be cut off taxpayer's money distributed via REF/QR. If the whole countries would like to rethink their commitment to supporting and financing their research, they should lower the tax burden on taxpayers accordingly.
In the last 6 months the following have happened at Salford Business School. All 9 Professors have been fired. 10 of the 11 members of the Senior Management team have been forced out of their roles. Many subjects have seen staff flee the University. Thus half of the Law Department has left or resigned in the last 6 months. An inexperienced English Lit scholar has been made the Dean of a Business without any experience. This mess has been duplicated across the University. Its a shambles
Salford university is clearly experiencing severe financial challenges. They should keep these professors, call for a meeting with relevant ministers to indicate that Salford wants to immediately work with them to resolve problems facing the UK. Each professor, based on their specialization/qualification, should then be asked to develop an implementable problem solving proposal which would be shared with the relevant minister for consideration. If accepted, the UK gov't t through the Minister should work with that Professor and his team to take action for resolving the problem. The university and the professor should share payments from the government on a 75%:25% basis, 75% going to the professor and team and 25% to the University of any other mutually acceptable arrangement.
Only time will tell whether the decision to disestablish professorial roles in the Salford Business School is counterproductive.
Only time will tell whether the decision to disestablish professorial roles in the Salford Business School is counterproductive.

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