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Queen's row erupts as academics are set revenue targets

By Joanne Sweeney

Published 14/10/2015

Queen's University Vice-Chancellor Professor Patrick Johnston
Queen's University Vice-Chancellor Professor Patrick Johnston

A row has erupted between Queen's University's senior management and its academics over the introduction of individual staff targets to achieve increased research grant revenue.

The Belfast university set its faculties targets to double research revenue while seeking to increase international students by 2020 who could pay up to £30,000 in fees a year each.

The University and College Union (UCU) at Queen's claimed that management had effectively changed the contracts of more than 900 academic staff by introducing the new targets without "proper consultation".

But Queen's vice chancellor Professor Patrick Johnston defended "difficult decisions" due to funding cuts.

The dispute comes after it held an application service to achieve 236 staff redundancies. A review of the university's future provision is expected to lead to a reduction in certain courses offered.

Last night Mr Johnston warned: "There is no area of the university that is significantly under-performing, so these are very difficult decisions and they have to be made in a very measured and careful way."

Most of Queen's academic staff will be expected to meet individual grant revenue targets depending on staff grade.

UCU's John Harpur said that grant revenue targets were set by school and not individualised.

He added: "All members of staff are feeling under pressure and anxious around the setting of the grant income programmes which are set for all academics across all of the schools.

"UCU was also not properly consulted. We believe our members' terms and conditions have been altered without union agreement.

"The generation of grant income is now becoming a priority." Mr Johnston rejected the union's claim and said that there had been a full consultation process with heads of schools.

"In setting those targets, they were set by staff.

"They weren't set by me or members of the senior leadership team," he said.

"They were set by the faculties and by schools compared to other peer groups.

"The fact is that we are actually lagging behind and therefore we must catch up."

International students can pay over three times as much in fees than EU and home students.

Mr Johnston said the university had about 8-9% of international students, and needed to increase that to 20% by 2020.

He added: "These are not necessarily high targets as our competitors are already at 20-25% while Edinburgh University has set its target at 40%.

"It's really about driving the international reputation of the university and Northern Ireland.

"The reason people come here is due to the reputation of this institution."

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