A UK university has told all of its research professors to reapply for their jobs, or face redundancy.
Teesside University informed all staff holding a professorial title that they will need to reapply for a new role of “professor (research)” as part of plans to improve its research performance.
The university claimed that its professoriate currently included a range of staff holding “disparate” roles and that the new posts would have a “single, clear and consistent” role description, as well as a single salary band.
Some 26 members of staff were told on 4 July that they will be interviewed by the end of next month for the new roles, according to the University and College Union. These staff will need to justify their personal research and funding bids in the exercise taking place over the summer months, the union claimed.
Teesside – which finished joint 85th in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework based on grade point average scores of submitted staff, up from 95th in 2008 – said that it was still in the “early stages of consultation” and that “no definitive process or timeframe has been finalised”.
“The current proposals would enable all 26 affected staff to apply for appointment to the new role and, if they meet the new criteria, they would be appointed,” said a university spokesman.
However, Jon Bryan, a UCU regional official, criticised the process and its timing, saying that some staff were about to depart on annual leave when they received the news.
“There is no reason whatsoever for this bizarre summer audit of professors,” said Mr Bryan.
“As term draws to a close, staff will be taking stock of their research and making preparations for the new academic year,” he said, adding that they “shouldn’t be hauled in to some make-or-break assessment exercise".
Mr Bryan called for the process to be halted or postponed until the autumn so that the affected staff could consult with their trade union. “The last thing staff need at the moment is fears about job security,” he said.
“The proposals are also bad news for research students who now don’t know whether they’ll have the same supervisor when they return in September,” he added, saying that the process will “do nothing for the university’s reputation at home or abroad".
The Teesside spokesman explained that the process was “part of its ambitious new Teesside 2020 strategy to move the university forward” and to build on its success in the 2014 REF.
“As part of these plans, the university is therefore proposing to bring together a range of disparate roles of staff holding the professorial title and create a new role of professor (research), based around a single, clear and consistent role description,” he said.
“It is also proposed as part of this process to move to a single basic salary for all staff holding these new roles, to reflect the enhanced responsibilities of the new role.”