UCU ire at Kingston University plan to cut principal lecturer, reader titles

Union says changes will lead to demotion and pay cuts. Jack Grove reports

March 7, 2013

Source: Alamy

Game-changers: principal lecturers are ‘unacknowledged defensive midfielders’

Plans to scrap principal lecturer and reader positions at Kingston University have met with union opposition.

The university has announced a 90-day consultation on a new promotion and progression scheme that would replace the two academic ranks above senior lecturer with an “associate professor” role.

About 265 people in these senior roles would be required to reapply for the new posts, with unsuccessful applicants facing the prospect of demotion to senior lecturer and a pay cut of up to £8,000 a year, according to union leaders.

Transferring the administrative duties of principal lecturers - a pay grade found only in post-1992 universities that includes directors of studies and associate heads of department - to senior lecturers would also cause confusion within departments, they added.

However, management at Kingston insist that the shake-up - believed to be the first such move by a post-1992 university - is not about saving money but adopting an academic structure that is better understood across the sector, which will aid recruitment.

Others have claimed also that the principal lecturer role is often a career dead end because its admin-heavy nature prevents senior staff from doing research and gaining a professorship.

However, Andrew Higginbotham, branch chairman of the University and College Union at Kingston, said he believed abolishing the two senior academic roles would be a mistake and would increase the workload of other staff.

“Principal lecturers are often directors of studies, curriculum development leaders or course managers - these people are team leaders in departments and the ones who guarantee the courses,” said Dr Higginbotham, who is himself a principal lecturer in politics and human rights at Kingston.

“It’s a bit of sweeper role dealing with lots of problems - similar to the unacknowledged defensive midfielder [in football]. If you take them away, it will impact on others.”

Dr Higginbotham said he was also concerned that the shake-up could lead to an exodus of middle-ranked academics who failed to gain an associate professor role.

“They are going to be offered voluntary redundancy and severance packages and a proportion will take it,” he said. “I think we will lose about 65 staff immediately and more will follow.”

Dr Higginbotham said that while UCU was not against changing the principal lecturer or reader roles, “we need a more planned transition than these plans”.

The UCU held a series of meetings last month about the proposals, which could come into effect by September if approved by governors.

The proposals come in the wake of news that the University of Oxford is also seeking to revamp its academic structure.

It wants to scrap the lecturer grade and replace it with an associate professor title, which it believes will help it recruit internationally.

A spokesman for Kingston said that the institution wanted academics to be appropriately rewarded for their various duties but that the current roles and titles in its academic structure were not always understood across the sector.

“Inconsistency in this area can have an impact on the recruitment of new staff as well as the ability of current staff to progress or move easily across the sector,” he said.

Kingston is consulting on the plans until mid-April and is open to alternative suggestions from academic colleagues, he added.

jack.grove@tsleducation.com

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Most Commented

Daniel Mitchell illustration (29 June 2017)

Academics who think they can do the work of professional staff better than professional staff themselves are not showing the kind of respect they expect from others

celebrate, cheer, tef results

Emilie Murphy calls on those who challenged the teaching excellence framework methodology in the past to stop sharing their university ratings with pride

Sir Christopher Snowden, former Universities UK president, attacks ratings in wake of Southampton’s bronze award

Senior academics at Teesside University put at risk of redundancy as summer break gets under way

Tef, results, gold, silver, bronze, teaching excellence framework

The results of the 2017 teaching excellence framework in full. Find out which universities were awarded gold, silver or bronze