From the Guardian:
The fevered build up to this month’s university research audit has exposed academics to an atmosphere of competitiveness and bullying, according to a survey by the Guardian’s higher education network.
More than half of UK university staff questioned by the network said recent policy changes such as the introduction of the research excellence framework – a new process for measuring the quality of academic research – had fuelled campus bullying.
The survey questioned over 1,300 university staff who have experienced bullying at work, half of which are based at UK institutions. The research did not attempt to measure the scale of bullying, but asked respondents about its causes and how well universities deal with such behaviour.
Imperial College London is to examine its staff policies after the death of an academic who was believed to have been placed under a performance review.
Stefan Grimm, professor of toxicology in the Faculty of Medicine at Imperial, was found dead in Northwood, Middlesex, in September. An inquest was opened and adjourned at the West London District Coroner’s Court on 8 October.
Speaking to Times Higher Education on condition of anonymity, two academics who knew Professor Grimm, who was 51, said that he had complained of being placed under undue pressure by the university in the months leading up to his death, and that he had been placed on performance review.
Academia for women: short maternity leave, few part-time roles and lower pay
The Daily Mail front page caught my eye yesterday: it announced that trade unions were now paying their members to go on strike. I confess to being almost impressed at that infernal organ’s ability to alchemise scandals out of the prosaic, and it got me thinking about the other myths that are commonly peddled about trade unions. Let’s have a look at six regulars, and give them a good old busting….
How should workers respond to bullying and intimidation tactics used by employers during industrial action disputes? Two leading academics consider the current dispute in the university sector.
Analysing the nationally representative 2011 Workplace Employment Relations Survey (WERS), the National Institute for Social and Economic Research (NIESR) found those workplaces with rising employee job satisfaction also experienced improvements in workplace performance, while deteriorating employee job satisfaction is detrimental to workplace performance. Employee job satisfaction was found to be positively associated with workplace financial performance, labour productivity, the quality of output and service and an additive scale combining all three aspects of performance. Workplaces experiencing an improvement in non-pecuniary job satisfaction – whether measured in terms of the average level of satisfaction in the workforce, or measured in terms of an increase in the proportion “very satisfied” or a reduction in the proportion “very dissatisfied” – also experience an improvement in performance. By contrast, there was no robust association between job-related affect (measured in terms of the amount of time feeling tense, depressed, worried, gloomy, uneasy and miserable) and workplace performance, nor pay satisfaction and workplace performance.
more at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/worker-wellbeing-and-workplace-performance
University of York academics have written an open letter to their VC about their University’s position on the Pensions dispute and got this response: http://www.york.ac.uk/news-and-events/news/response-to-open-letter/
The tone of the response letter, civilised, caring and encouraging negotiation, is strikingly (pardon the pun) different from that of the email Surrey staff have received from their Vice-President, Human Resources.
Here is something a new member wrote and said he didm’t mind if we published it.
After our head of department’s admirable efforts to get us to complete the Staff Survey, I was disappointed to say the least at Paul Stephenson’s misleading spin on the results in the Surrey Life newsletter (Summer 2014 issue).
Where there was a high positive percentage score, he quoted the percentage; where there was a low positive percentage score, he only told us about the shift in percentage from the previous year.
So, the following have been airbrushed out of the account:
4. In my team, we have the resources we need to complete our work effectively; only 49% agree; 30% disagree
10. I have an awareness of the University’s new ‘Create Wonder’ brand: 42% do not.
11. I am aware of the 5 new University values introduced in January 2014: 50% are not
12. The University does a good job of keeping me informed about matters affecting me: only 53% think so
14. There is good communication between people in different parts of the organisation: only 31% think so; 40% disagree
35. I feel I could approach a member of the Executive Board if I wanted to raise something with them: only 32% agree; 41% think not
36. I trust the University’s Executive Board to lead the organisation effectively: only 44% agree
39. If so did the changes improve working arrangements/ make no difference/ make matters worse?: only 39% think changes made things better; 40% think changes made things worse
46. I believe progression is fair at the University: only 39% agree
Given the way that the figures have been interpreted, it is perhaps no wonder that only 69% of staff engaged in the survey, and that:
53. Where I work effective action has been taken on the results of the last staff survey: only 26% agree.
I don’t suppose anything can be done about this, but I wonder what the point of a survey is unless the results are acknowledged fairly, and acted upon.
The Times Higher Education has published a report about a review of governance at Durham University, which makes for interesting reading and inevitably makes one wonder how Surrey would fare in a similar review. As at Durham, the university Senate seems to have lost the power it used to have.