Kingston University axes History
The outcome of the Kingston School of Art (KSA) ‘consultation’ has been released, buried deep on StaffSpace. There are many errors and misrepresentations and many issues raised by staff in lengthy submissions during the consultation period, have still not been addressed.
Senior management have decided to end all History provision permanently. Kingston University will no longer be a place where History is taught or researched. Management repeatedly emphasized how genuine was their commitment to ‘consultation’, then rejected every single one of the suggestions in the four-page History staff submission.
All remaining historians are facing compulsory redundancy. Claims have been made that History staff were given opportunities to propose ideas for curriculum development and new courses that they didn’t take up – these claims are false. Repeated attempts by History colleagues to engage with management have been simply ignored. Just what does management have against History at this university?
Management have asserted they wanted to avoid compulsory redundancies, yet there has been no meaningful consultation with UCU about avoiding, reducing or mitigating job losses (in breach of the Managing Organisation Restructure policy as well as the university’s statutory obligations under the relevant law provisions in TULCRA Section 188(4)). Redeployment opportunities have not been adequately explored. These staff are being rushed out the door despite their herculean efforts to provide quality teaching during the Covid pandemic.
Moreover, Kingston UCU strongly believes that employment law obligations related to staff with protected characteristics in redundancy situations may have been breached, making a mockery of equality and diversity commitments.
Staff in Media & Communications and Film Studies have lost 3.2FTE colleagues to voluntary redundancy, with an inevitable impact on the workloads of those remaining. No further staff reductions are envisaged by management “this year”, although this suggests this may be revisited in the very near future. No reference is made in the outcome document to the serious impact of this consultation on staff mental health and wellbeing.
Nor has detail been provided about arrangements for PhD students who will lose their supervisors. It’s been suggested to History PhD students that historian supervisors could be replaced by art & design historians (a majority of KU art & design historians signed a statement rejecting this). Another suggestion mooted was that the university could employ external supervisors on short-term contracts with comically low flat-rate remuneration.
A second Politics ‘Consultation’ begins: Job cuts in the pipeline
Members of the Politics department met with the acting head of school on 30 June for the purpose of learning the results of a ‘consultation’ on plans to wind down the Politics department over the coming two years. This, although the substantive decision regarding the fate of the department – to close recruitment of UG students for the upcoming year – was taken by management prior to the beginning of ‘consultations’ without any input from staff or any substantial effort to help the department to improve its course offer.
Over the first 45-day ‘consultation’, staff were further kept in the dark regarding the target staff-student ratio or the number of jobs to be cut. Nonetheless, members collaborated to create a lengthy document that highlighted several proposals to revamp UG and PG politics provision. Only one proposal – that of merging with the Criminology & Sociology department – was accepted by management.
Several people have responded to the stress and disrespect on offer by taking VS. At the 30th June meeting, however, a further period of ‘consultation’ was announced, which will run from 1 to 31 July. While in theory, no staff are at risk of redundancy for the 2021/22 year (2.2 fte’s being lost through colleagues taking VS), job cuts will begin in 2022/23 with a reduction of 2.0 FTE from the previous year, and a further 0.0 to 3.0 FTE cut the year that follows (2023/24). Management say that cuts are to be offset by 3 ring-fenced posts in Economics and Business, and an additional 2 posts in Criminology and Sociology. Bizarrely, management are asking Politics staff to set out the criteria by which the limited competition for these posts will occur.
This is just the start of the cuts
It is clear from KU22+ plans to focus on “eliminating courses ranked in the bottom decile nationally and reducing those ranked in the bottom quartile” that this is just the start of the course and job cuts, other courses across the university are assuredly being looked at.
For KSA, this is likely to be compounded by government proposals to cut funding for arts courses including performing arts, art and design, and media studies.
What can you do?
Talk to your colleagues in your department about these cuts. Build awareness and help build the branch.
Get involved by signing up to the activist discussion list, come forward to be a departmental contact or a rep.
Follow the campaigns on Twitter: @kingstonucu @uni_kingston @savekupolitics. Instagram: @kingstonucu @savekingstonuni @savekupolitics.
Ask colleagues in other institutions and professional associations to write to the VC (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Board of Governors (KU-Secretariat@kingston.ac.uk) opposing compulsory redundancies, the withdrawal of History and the winding down of Politics.