The big guns at Queen's University came out fighting this week in a war of words after a rebellion by academic staff over a radical restructuring plan.
Pro vice-chancellor Malcolm Andrew said Queen's had drifted too far down the universities' league table of excellence and the staff cuts, involving at least 107 senior academics, had to be made to attract research income. "The relative weakness of Queen's in some areas of research has resulted in a substantial loss of income. The relatively weak must not be allowed to pull down the strong."
But his remarks incensed senior staff who bombarded newspapers with letters. Paul Hudson, senior lecturer in statistics and a member of Queen's ruling body, the senate, said Professor Andrew's remarks were the opposite of concerns voiced by the senate about the impact of the restructuring on teaching, students and community relations.
Retired senior staffer Evelyn Mullally said: "The staff who have escaped one round of cuts soon start to wonder when their turn will come and to worry about what the next round of 'new criteria' will bring. The widespread stress and anxiety produced do not tend to increase productivity."
School of psychology director Ken Brown said the undue emphasis on research performance gave a clear message that other activities essential to the smooth running of such complex a organisation as Queen's were not appreciated by management.
Paul Clifford, of the school of biology and biochemistry, said: "I am only judged as 'research inactive' by the incredible standards now required by Queen's in order to justify retention."
New vice-chancellor George Bain has remained silent to date.
Letter, page 17