Belfast Telegraph

Queen Universitys lecturers protest at bid to set them funding targets

By Rebecca Black

Queen's University academics will protest this morning after being set individual targets for how much grant money they must secure.

They are set to lobby the university's senate as members arrive for a meeting and make their views clear.

It is understood that under proposed new contracts, at least £25,000 of funding must be procured by junior academics each year, and up to £100,000 from senior professors.

The new academic standard section of the contract suggests staff fill in appraisal forms each year and declare how much money they have brought in.

The proposal has caused consternation among academics with many now fearing for their jobs. One source told the Belfast Telegraph that there were fears teaching standards could slip if academics were forced to spend more time seeking funding, and having to rely more on Phd students to teach undergraduates.

In some cases the demand for funding is set to be applied retrospectively, too.

Academics have been told if they don't meet the funding demand, they will be placed into a special measures 'capability procedure'.

Queen's is dealing with a number of cuts in the funding it receives from the Department of Employment and Learning (DEL). In September it cut 290 student places and 236 jobs in response. Next April the university's senate is to consider a paper proposing a new size and shape to the university, which is expected to include more international and post graduate students.

UCU, the union that represents academics, organised the lobby of senate members this morning to protest at the imposition of the new academic standards, the individualisation of these targets and the probation system.

"This was done without either meaningful consultation with all of the academic staff and/or negotiation with UCU," a spokesman said.

"These changes represent an unagreed variation to previous requirements and practice."

The lobby also protested against the threat of the capability procedure for those who don't meet income targets.

A spokesman for Queen's said: "The university has established a strategic planning group to determine the future size and shape of the institution in the context of Vision 2020.

"This work is ongoing and it is expected that recommendations will be presented to senate, the governing body, during the course of this academic year.

"One of the key enablers to support the ambition of Vision 2020 has been the development of a revised set of academic standards, which cover the areas of research, education, academic leadership and societal and economic impact.

"The revised academic standards have been developed at school and faculty level, are subject and discipline specific and reflect the seniority of the academic staff member.

"The promotions and appraisals schemes have been aligned with these revised standards which have also been benchmarked, where appropriate, with our comparator universities."

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