Staff and students have attacked a "degrees 'R' us mentality" at the University of Lincolnshire and Humberside, claiming that planned new workloads for business school academics allow only five minutes to mark a postgraduate exam script.
Lecturers' union Natfhe is to ballot for industrial action over the workloads, which they claim threaten quality. Natfhe regional official for higher education Adrian Jones warned: "Blinkered management attitudes at Lincolnshire and Humberside destroy the foundations of higher learning. Educational delivery is now increasingly finance-driven by the new philosophy: bums on benches brings us banknotes."
The row has provoked fury from managers at Lincolnshire and Humberside, with pro vice-chancellor Derek Crothall condemning Natfhe's action as a quest for "more privileged conditions" and their statements as "deeply offensive and misleading".
Natfhe claims that managers unilaterally scrapped an agreed workload formula, imposing a heavier workload during the summer recess.
It says the new formula reduces a time allowance for the moderation of postgraduate work from a notional two hours 48 minutes to one hour. An agreed 12 minutes for marking postgraduate scripts slips to five minutes. Distance-learning supervision for postgraduates falls from ten to four hours.
An internal Natfhe memo obtained by The THES warned that the new workloads will compromise work done under franchise through the university's distance learning business, ULHI.
"Natfhe members are very anxious that ULHI work be fully recognised within their visible workloads for quality reasons," the memo stated.
Nathfe, which claims that the university rejected its call for formal and binding arbitration by Acas, said that an indicative vote at a recent branch meeting was unanimous in calling for a ballot for industrial action.
Professor Crothall denied that there has been an increase in workloads, and said plans for a new workload tariff were still open to negotiation.
He said: "The unions have not participated in any genuine attempt to resolve this matter other than to repeat a demand for a more privileged set of conditions."