Strike ballot at King’s College London over proposed job cuts

Up to 120 positions to be lost across three health schools

June 5, 2014

Academics at King’s College London are to ballot for strike action over redundancy plans in three health schools.

The institution wants to cut up to 120 jobs across the schools in order to fund building work, unions claim. Staff that do not meet a threshold value for research income or teach fewer than a specified number of hours will be at risk.

The King’s College branch of the University and College Union says that the measures are causing “profound anxiety and anger” among staff and “demonstrate an alarming disregard for people”. King’s College hopes to cut its academic staffing bill by 10 per cent in the schools of medicine and biomedical sciences and the Institute of Psychiatry.

Documents seen by the British Medical Association suggest that lecturers who cannot prove £40,000 of grant income, and professors £150,000, since 2012 will be put at threat of redundancy, as will those on teaching contracts of fewer than 100 contact hours a year in medicine and biomedical sciences, and 75 hours at the Institute of Psychiatry. Redundancies are earmarked for mid-August and a ballot for strike action is due to take place on 6 June.

Jim Wolfreys, president of the King’s College UCU, said that staff are “shocked” by the proposals. “It signals a shift in priorities away from teaching and research towards infrastructure,” he said. “Staff are to be targeted for redundancy on the basis of crude measures of research grant income and teaching hours, imposed without warning.”

A spokesman for King’s College said: “We have ambitious plans to enhance our position as a world-leading university and to meet these objectives we strive for academic excellence and strong performance across all areas, as well as effective management of our costs.

“In this climate we need a robust strategy for business as usual and in order to make our ambitions a reality. All parts of the college are looking at how they can increase income, control costs and collectively raise performance.”

An online petition started by students in the health schools had almost 500 signatures by the time Times Higher Education went to press.

holly.else@tsleducation.com

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Reader's comments (6)

Is Kings College copying Queen Mary University of London? I have put together a lot of information on my website (including 20 items published in the Times Higher Education) over the 2012 restruction at QMUL. http://fanis.fisio.cinvestav.mx/styled-4/styled-7/styled-13/index.html Beware what happens when academics no longer control university governance. Financial managers see students primarily as an income source. It is not uncommon for detached managers to think that anyone can teach students as what they are being taught does not affect their balance sheets. Have a look at what happened to Cell Biology teaching after I was sacked in a similar exercise and judge for yourselves. http://fanismissirlis.wordpress.com/2014/05/30/sbcscellbiology/ Naturally, I have signed the petition in hope there are still some reasonable voices within Kings College that can help prevent further disaster. There is urgent need to rething UK Higher Education policy. https://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/rick-trainor-stop-kcl-health-school-redundancies
King's College London was on the news 2-3 years ago, when they decided to restructure their Humanities Schools. They were forced to reconsider due to an unprecedented public outcry. They did press ahead though with their plans to disband the Division of Engineering, which was formally ceased in July 2013.
Using grant income as a proxy for staff quality indicates that KCL has completely lost any sense of the purpose of an academic institution. As Fergus Millar noted a while back, people are now doing research in order to get funding, when they should be seeking funding in order to do research. This is not good for research or researchers. It just encourages people to rush into applying for grants, as expensive as possible, regardless of whether they have a good idea, and regardless of whether they have time to do the research properly. We should be rewarding research which delivers good value for money, not research which simply generates grant income. See http://deevybee.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/why-does-so-much-research-go-unpublished.html
I linked this article on KCL facebook page, asking for a comment. They deleted the link and blocked me from posting on their page. Here's an example of honest dealing with criticism!
My own further reactions: my blog: Rick Trainor receives an annual remuneration of £321,000. He should be asked to return every single pound he has received from this institution for the damage he is inflicting upon Kings College and its students. twitter: #academicvalues lost: managers @KingsCollegeLon debate colour of redundancy letter What colour for Rosalind Franklin? Green chains to hell… David Colquhoun's Improbable Science blog: An institution is as strong as its constituents are. The reason that the UK has become hostile to science and scientists is simple. It has taken away their institutions and handed them to profiteers. Many of the traditional freedoms – required for any university to serve its purpose – are now serving a small cast to make their small fortunes, on the back of students and academics. Their sufferring has not been brought to light, perhaps because Journalists are also facing their own managers and legal supervisors.
Academia really has become a treadmill. I am seriously considering jacking it in!

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