Where you publish, not what, ‘decides historians’ fate’

Dundee academics face redundancy at end of ‘shocking’ assessment process

July 8, 2016

Historians at a Scottish university fear that they will be identified for redundancy not on the quality of their research but on where it was published.

The University of Dundee is looking to save £250,000 from the budget of its School of Humanities as part of a £5 million cost-cutting drive, and several members of the history department have been told that they are at risk of redundancy.

These historians have been given scores for their teaching and research records but Times Higher Education has been told that the publication element is based only on an assessment of the journal that work was published in, not an evaluation of the work itself.

A panel of five senior academics that will decide the academics’ fate contains only one history specialist: James Livesey, the dean of the School of Humanities. The other four are drawn from across the rest of the university.

One Dundee academic, who asked not to be named, questioned how the historians could be judged without an expert assessment of their research record.

“Not having a process to assess or evaluate the piece of work a judgement has been made on is a shocking way to go about things,” the academic said. “This doesn’t inspire confidence in a process that ultimately is leading to the ending of people’s employment or careers.”

Up to three jobs are at risk across the School of Humanities, but this is the latest in a series of cuts at Dundee, with members of the University and College Union at the institution having voted to strike last year.

A Dundee spokesman said that efforts to achieve the required savings in humanities without the need for redundancies were “ongoing”.

“We are following a procedure which we believe is fair and transparent and takes into consideration a number of factors, not based solely on research,” the spokesman said. “We engaged in collective consultation with our campus unions before beginning this process and continue to do so.”

Several other UK universities have faced criticism in recent years for their use of metrics in redundancy processes, including Queen Mary University of London, which focused on issues such as the number of papers published, and the University of Warwick, which used research grant income as a measure.

chris.havergal@tesglobal.com

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