Yesterday lunchtime the Birmingham City University University and College Union (UCU) branch protested plans by Birmingham City University (BCU) to force academic staff in its Education Development Service (EDS) to apply for lower paid non-academic jobs.
“Over 50 demonstrated noisily outside the vice chancellor’s office,” reported Nita Sanghera, UCU national executive officer, “before marching around the campus to give the message that staff are united and will resit any attack on UCU members.”
EDS staff provide courses for BCU teaching staff to develop and reflect on their teaching practice – including the increasingly compulsory HE teaching qualification, the Postgraduate Certificate in Teaching and Learning (PGcert).
BCU UCU told HE Marketisation that the EDS was facing a “restructure and a 34% budget cut”, with “no guarantee there will be no redundancies” for over 20 members of staff concerned and senior lecturers in the Service facing a pay cut of £3000-£5000 per year.
“This restructure has serious consequences for the lives and livelihoods of our members,” commented BCU UCU chair Kirsten Forkert. “New staff who are at the beginning of their academic careers are questioning their futures at BCU because research will no longer be part of their workloads. This is how we lose good people.”
It was ironic, BCU UCU added, that the planned restructure came at a time when the University was trying to get a Gold rating on the next Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF). Not only is the PgCert now a requirement for many HE academic posts, it is also the main way to become a member of the Higher Education Academy (HEA), the “national body which champions teaching excellence”.
In response to the last TEF exercise, the HEA said it “continued to propose teaching qualifications and continuing professional development (CPD) as measures of teaching excellence”. More importantly, the HEA encourages teacher trainers in HE to undertake research, and recognises that such research by teacher trainers provides the foundation for teaching qualifications and CPD.
“It’s very disturbing that in the future we will be taught these qualifications by staff who will no longer enjoy academic freedom or have the time and resources to carry out research,” Forkert argued.
“We don’t want HE teacher training which is about a stripped down, “compliance culture” model of pedagogy taught by low-paid staff with no proper resources,” she added. “It’s not in the best interests of staff or students.”
BCU UCU is calling on BCU senior management to “save quality teaching provision in the EDS, and reconsider plans for teacher education on the cheap”. Messages of solidarity and support can be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org