Manchester University academics have been urged by their union to take a stand against a new promotion system for professors, writes Tony Tysome.
Academic union leaders have complained that the scheme encourages favouritism because it requires professors to be put forward for promotion by their head of department, rather than allowing them to apply for advancement themselves.
The new rules have been brought in as part of a professorial pay system at Manchester that is meant to be more transparent than previous arrangements.
But University and College Union officials at Manchester fear it could disadvantage women and black and minority professors, as well as academics generally who do not try to get in their department head's good books solely to line themselves up for a promotion.
Ivan Leuder, a psychology professor and senior vice-president of Manchester UCU, said the new scheme had been pushed through by managers without agreement with union representatives.
"It is being implemented, even though there are several points where there is a sharp disagreement between the union and the management," he said.
"Normally there would be calls for anyone who wants to apply to be promoted, but under the new arrangements it is the head of school who decides who is put forward. That leaves room for quite a bit of patronage."
The union has also objected to a move by the university to allow it to "red circle" professors who were considered not to be meeting performance criteria.
Professor Leuder said: "We have one member who became disabled when he was already a professor, who has had no pay rise for ten years, and now faces the prospect of possibly being demoted.
"We feel this scheme represents a very managerial approach that is designed to put people in their place."
Manchester UCU pointed to Liverpool University as providing a better model for dealing with professors' pay.
The starting salary for dons at Liverpool is almost £4,000 more than at Manchester, and the university operates an "open" promotions system where individuals can put themselves forward for consideration.
A Manchester spokesman said that information about the scheme for professors was sent out at the end of last year.
"It was positively received by the professoriate who are fully co-operating with its implementation. We have not come across any opposition to the pay award," he said.