Niamh McGovern, Editor; Niall Coleman, Deputy
Today, 50+ staff members, along with members of UCU (University & College Union), protested outside the Lanyon Building, at 10am, as Queen’s Senate meeting took place. Meanwhile, Fossil Free QUB had occupied the Canada Room, where the meeting was due to take place.
QUB were forced to relocate the meeting to the newly refurbished Graduate Center, where both parties followed to protest outside.
Queen’s Staff had organised the event, in cooperation with UCU, in protest of a number of legislative changes by the university.
To protest at the imposition of the new Academic Standards in general and more specifically the grant income targets and the individualisation of these targets. This was done without either meaningful consultation with all of the academic staff and/or negotiation with UCU. These changes represent an un-agreed variation to previous requirements and practice.
To protest at the threat of the Capability Procedure if you do not meet grant income targets.
To protest at changes to the appraisal system which introduced a ‘capability tick box’ and by doing so undermined collegiality and the developmental nature of appraisal.
To protest at the imposed changes to the probation profile for current academic staff on probation to be confirmed in post and the retrospective application of these changes. Once again senior QUB management did not negotiate these changes with UCU and they represent an un-agreed variation to previous requirements.
To protest at the threat of job loss in a number of schools within the University.
School of English, Director of Education, Philip McGowan commented:
“We are protesting against the imposition of new academic standards and targets for research income ,which are unrealistic, and targets for recruitment of students which are unrealistic. The School, of English, for example, is to bring in 2700 percent more international students at postgraduate level.
When Colleagues are under pressure to bring in research income, when new probationers will basically have to pay for themselves, the one thing that is going to give in all of this is the education of our students – and that is the one central coordinate of any university. That will eventually give, as more and more staff and students come under pressure. It’s disgraceful, absolutely impossible.
None of these things were agreed and management will spin it. They will say there was consultation, there was none. We haven’t agreed to any of these standards, and they are unrealistic.”
In response to the location change for the Senate, all staff moved their protest outside the Graduate Center. A number of Senate members entering the building were met with pickets, UCU leaflets and protesters.
UCU Representative, Alan Harpur, who organised the staff protest, said:
“What we are protesting about is the fact that the senior university management has imposed grant income targets and other academic targets on staff without sufficient consultation, and they have certainly not agreed to those new standards on grant income targets within the Union.
Basically they’ve run rough shod over their own staff and the staff union; we’re also protesting about probation also being included in these new criteria – those staff were originally employed on old criteria. This is totally different to what they were told when they were employed – they now have to attain money rather than simply apply, and they have to attain it at a certain level to retain a certain post. It’s unjust and unfair””
As staff stood outside the Graduate center, students’ involved with Fossil Free QUB, attempted to enter the building, who were pushed back by security inside. Both protests ended around 11am this morning, while the relocated Senate continued the meeting in a back room of the Graduate Centre.