What we have learned, and what still remains unclear, since the Vice Chancellor announced the threat to trash our contracts:

  • The University wants to save money by employing fewer staff who teach more.
  • They are targeting the Research & Scholarly Activity time in our contracts that enables us to retain our status as academics.
  • They want to abolish the current weekly and annual maxima for contact time and introduce teaching-only contracts.
  • Their fake consultation with staff is designed to rig negotiations with UCU.

Read on below for further details of what we know so far.

  1. The goal is to deliver teaching on the cheap. They claim, without providing any evidence, that teaching at Brighton costs 25% more than at our competitor institutions (see below). Management prefers ‘cost effective’ or ‘efficient’ to ‘cheap’, but it all amounts to the same thing: cutting the number of staff and making the rest work harder.
  2. They aim to cut Research & Scholarly Activity time for all lecturers from its current level of 20% of annual hours (320 for a FT lecturer) by ‘about half’. Instead, staff will be able to compete for buy-out from teaching of up to 30% to pursue research projects. Not only does this represent a huge cut to the funding of research. Just as with last year’s closure of seven COREs (research centres), it also means the University will tighten its control of what gets researched, prioritising financial over academic criteria.
  3. Management want to be able to make us teach up to 25 hours a week – more than most FE lecturers. This is what lies behind their desire to abolish the 18-hour weekly contact time maximum in our contract. They say this is to allow intense periods of teaching for short periods at certain times during the year. But in light of their stated goal of increasing the teaching capacity of a smaller workforce, the real reason for wanting to scrap the current weekly limit is to facilitate an increase in annualteaching hours.
  4. They say that they do not need to abolish the 550 annual contact hours limit which applies in post-92 institutions because the average lecturer teaches only 300 hours. But the only way to increase that figure without scrapping the 550 maximum is to break the Workload Agreement and reduce the proportion of hours allocated for leadership responsibilities that are set against teaching. Tellingly, abolishing the 550 limit is not on their list of things that they don’tseek to do.
  5. The proposed new Teaching Fellow role would be teaching-only. The annual teaching load for staff on this contract would undoubtedly exceed 550. It would also be a step towards the two-tier model favoured by private HE providers: staff on lecturer contracts writing curriculum and devising materials for teaching-only staff to use in the classroom.
  6. Management want to introduce teaching observation. As anyone who has experienced them will know, observation schemes are not about ‘supporting professional excellence’ but always about management surveillance, control and disciplining of staff. It is further proof that despite what they say, senior management do not value staff and seek to blame us at every turn for their own failings.
  7. Management are as dishonest as ever. According to them, there is no connection between a Voluntary Severance Scheme designed to produce another big cut the number of academic staff and the proposals for a new contract that would make remaining staff work harder! They also claim that our competitor and comparator institutions have already done these things. Which are these institutions? Apparently, they include Anglia Ruskin, Derby, Kingston, Greenwich, Portsmouth, Oxford Brookes, Leeds Beckett, Northumbria, Middlesex, Robert Gordon. These comparisons are disingenuous. Some of these institutions have sought to erode the Post-92 National Contract in minor ways. None have risked trashing their reputation with a full scale assault on the contract. The truth is that our management picks and chooses who it compares itself with to suit its arguments. To justify a Graduate Teaching Assistant role at Grade 6, it compares itself against pre-92 research-intensive institutions which Brighton has little in common with.
  8. The promise to negotiate in good faith with UCU is meaningless. As the recognised trade union for all academic staff, the proposals should have been brought to UCU for discussion first. It is for the unions to consult their members on changes to the terms and conditions of employment. By running a rigged and fake consultation with staff before negotiations with UCU, management have confirmed their contempt for trade union recognition and their disdain for good industrial relations. This week they declared negotiations over a new GTA role to be at an end, and are pressing ahead unilaterally.

If management get their way and break the national contract and the local agreements based on it, it will mean two things: first, every single member of staff will have worse conditions than we do now; second, this institution will no longer be able to call itself a University.  Management want to short-circuit UCU because they know we have the power to stop them from implementing their disastrous plans.

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