Agreement negotiated with senior management related to marking & assessment boycott

Here is the agreement in principle negotiated between Kingston UCU and Kingston University for working together on local actions to address the issues that have long been a concern raised at our JNCC meetings with management which also chime with the current Four Fights dispute for which we have successfully obtained a mandate for industrial action, including a marking & assessment boycott:

22-06-13 JNCC Joint Statement FINAL

Kingston UCU members voted at the emergency branch meeting Monday 13th June to accept this agreement in principle. It is currently awaiting approval from national UCU officers.

How Kingston senior management can take action to address our Four Fights demands

Kingston UCU has sent the following to senior leaders as our formal contribution to the Joint Negotiating and Consultative Committee (JNCC) meeting this month due to take place 17th May, but cancelled by senior management:
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We call upon the Vice Chancellor and Senior Leadership Team of Kingston University to act upon the points within the University and College Union’s Four Fights campaign that they have acknowledged can be addressed, in part, at the local level. These demands must be met now to acknowledge the strength of feeling amongst staff that Kingston University must be transformed to create an equitable workplace.
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Workload  
  1. Publish the current number of staff vacancies in all areas of the University and commit to immediately advertise these vacancies by the end of June 2022.
  2. To further commit to recruit to these vacancies before the end of Teaching Block 1 2022.
  3. To proactively communicate to all fractional staff, before the beginning of Teaching Block 1 2022, the mechanism for having their fraction increased if their role and responsibilities have expanded and their fraction no longer fairly covers their workload.
  4. To repeat this communication to fractional staff and process at least once per year on an ongoing basis.
Casualization  
  1. To proactively communicate to all HPL and fixed term staff with clear guidance on the process to be made permanent and to invite casualized staff to begin this process by the end of June 2022.
  2. To communicate with all line managers and HR colleagues, by the end of June 2022, on how to actively support the process of conversion of temporary staff to permanent contracts with a view to maximizing conversion of staff.
  3. To convert all eligible staff on HPL or fixed term contracts to permanent fractional or full-time posts at the appropriate spine point and on a fraction that fairly reflects their workload and to complete these conversions to permanent before the beginning of Teaching Block 1 2022.
Pay  
  1. To give all staff –regardless of grade or salary – a one-off £1000 bonus to acknowledge the extraordinary workload consequences of the Covid pandemic and the return to campus, and acknowledge the professional commitment, care and goodwill that staff extended to their students and colleagues to enable the university community to function through this period.
  2. To halt all further strike deductions – as to date these have been taken in punitive single deductions which have inflicted real financial distress on their own employees, including employees supporting dependents.
  3. To donate those strike deductions already taken in April to the student hardship fund, to be available to all students in financial distress.
  4. To commit to write an open letter to UCEA stating that ongoing and future pay negotiations must match inflation in order to prevent staff suffering during the cost of living crisis and halt the further erosion of pay in the sector.
  5. To publish on StaffSpace, send to all staff via the newsletter, and send to all line managers the process for bonus pay and requesting an increase in pay via spine point by the end of June 2022.
Equalities  
  1. To immediately cease the use of NDAs in all cases of bullying and harassment, and all processes relating to grievances, staff conduct or disciplinary processes.
  2. To align Kingston’s harassment, bullying and discrimination policies to sector-leading policies, and the measures advocated by campaign groups within this sphere.
  3. To roll out training on the prevention of sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination to all managers, supervisors and HR partners throughout the academic year 2022.
  4. To ensure that staff contributing to EDI initiatives, including networks, awards and benchmarking, have this work properly recognised within workload models, recognised in progression and promotion, (and through salary increase or acting up for leading roles.) To be completed within Teaching Block 1 2022
  5. To liaise with trade unions to identify key areas of non-promotable workload in the university and ask each department to conduct an equalities impact assessment on who conducts this non-promotable work. To respond to the equalities impact assessment to urgently correct imbalances in which staff undertake this work.
  6. To address the gender, race, and disability pay gaps that are increasing across the University through direct action, involving increasing these staff members spine points and temporary staff hourly wages, as needed. This should be accomplished by the end of Teaching Block 1 2022, guided by the already collected data from the University’s own report on these gaps.

Kingston University UCU branch committee

Top Quartile Kingston Politics Courses Should be Re-opened

Politics at Kingston University has leapt up the Guardian league table for UK Universities from ranking 61st in 2021 to 17th in 2022. This extraordinary result puts Politics in the top quartile nationwide for the discipline.

To emphasise the achievement, Kingston Politics is ranked the second highest post-92 institution in the entire UK, missing the top spot only by a small margin. The Guardian’s table ranks Kingston Politics markedly ahead of all comparable London region institutions, considered to be its competitors.

The achievement of a top quartile ranking is the fruit of the great commitment and teamwork between staff and students in the Politics department over the last three years.

Significantly, the result is entirely at odds with the unduly pessimistic forecasts of market ‘research’ that was commissioned and used as evidence by senior management for its decision to suspend and then close Politics undergraduate courses.

While a competitive league table is only one way of assessing departmental performance, even so it is an important one because it feeds through into candidate student choices.

The Guardian top quartile ranking completely validates the academic staff’s case that there has been a clear uptick in teaching and learning performance, and especially the students’ campaign to keep the department open.

Based on this new evidence, senior management should reconsider its closure decision as hasty, ill-informed but above all ill-judged.

Rather than bury the news as an inconvenient truth, senior management should build on this latest success, and reopen Kingston’s top quartile performing undergraduate Politics courses for recruitment in 2022/23.

More coverage of Kingston job and course cuts

The jobs cuts and planned course closures at Kingston following the KSA and Politics ‘consultations’ made it onto the front page of the Surrey Comet again in July.

As noted, ‘Staff have described the mental health impact of losing their livelihoods during a pandemic, in which they have made exceptional efforts to teach and support students, as “inhumane”. They’ve described the consultation process as a “sham” in which none of the issues raised over errors and omissions in the rationale, or counter proposals put forwards, were engaged with, and substantive decisions had already been taken.’

The response from the university ‘spokesperson’ fails to even mention the decision to axe History, or the fact all remaining historians face compulsory redundancy, nor that staff in Media & Communications and Film Studies have lost valued colleagues to voluntary severance and now face intensified workloads.

As Steve Woodbridge, Senior Lecturer in History states, “The decision to axe all history provision flies in the face of promises the University made to retain a history ‘footprint’ and ensure future engagement with the study of history. The University has also completely ignored the voices of national organisations who represent the history profession and who expressed their concern at Kingston’s plans, such as History UK and the Royal Historical Society.”

The Royal Historical Society themselves have followed up their initial announcement on the threats to History courses in post-1992 universities with a strong statement explicitly decrying Kingston’s decision to permanently withdraw History provision, the consequences for History staff, and the reputational impact of these cuts, noting “We are all the poorer for the loss of this hub of historical excellence”. Here is the statement in full:

Annual General Meeting / Emergency General Meeting

Thursday 1st July 1-3pm Kingston UCU annual general meeting to elect the new branch committee, and emergency general meeting to disucss:

  • KSA, Politics & IT consultation processes and outcomes
  • Pay and USS campaigns – next steps
  • AOB

This meeting will take place on Zoom – members have been emailed a calendar invite. If you haven’t received one, please Contact Us.

See you there!

Updates on the fight to #SaveKingstonUni

Kingston staff have told local journalists at the Surrey Comet about how devastated and horrified they are by the neglect and indifference of management, whose catalogue of poor decisions have directly damaged the courses being closed, and who are refusing to set out what cuts to actual jobs they are proposing and what this will mean for students and staff who remain.

Professional associations have denounced the course closures including the Royal Historical Society, History UK, the Society for the Study of Labour History, the Political Studies Association, the British International Studies Association, and the Association for Contemporary European Studies. They have highlighted how the closure of these courses at universities like Kingston with many first-generation students and a high proportion of BAME,commuting and local students, limits access and participation and damages democracy.

The student-led campaigns #SaveKingstonUni and #SaveKUPolitics continue on apace, but the VC has refused to meet with students.

Over 500 supporters have signed the petition to stop the cuts at Kingston. Numerous UCU branches have shared their support online and at solidarity meetings.

These cuts are part of attacks across our sector on the arts, humanities and social sciences, London South Bank, Chester, Leicester, Aston and Sheffield are facing similar cuts. But there are also cuts in health and life sciences – Liverpool have started 3 weeks of strike action against redundancies (donate to their strike fund here: ww.ulivucunews.org.uk/hardship-fund) This is an ideological attack on higher education.

The only way management will back down if you, your co-workers and fellow students make them.

How you can stop the cuts at Kingston:

  • Sign the petition and share it with everyone in your department / course / school.
  • Share it on social media with #SaveKingstonUni #savekupolitics #savekuhistory #savekumedia #savekufilm
  • Support the campaigns on Twitter: @kingstonucu @uni_kingston @savekupolitics. Instagram: @savekingstonuni @savekupolitics @kingstonucu
  • Write to the VC and Board of Governors using the template letter
  • Come to meetings like the UCU Solidarity Network Organising to Win – Support the Disputes! rally 6pm 27th May Register: http://bit.ly/UCUDisputes
  • Come to branch meetings – keep an eye on inboxes for details

#SaveKingstonUni

In April, Kingston University announced the closure to new applicants of its BA Politics, Human Rights, International Relations courses, the final closure of its BA History course, and proposed severe staffing cuts in Media and Communications and Film Studies. This represents a concerted attack on the provision of social sciences, arts, and humanities at Kingston. The university has given notice that up to 55 staff members are at risk of redundancy. The threat of redundancy comes despite the exceptional efforts of staff in teaching and supporting students during the pandemic.

The course closures and job losses in these subjects follow a catalogue of poor management  decisions in the organization and marketing of courses over the last four years. Academic staff have repeatedly been sidelined and overruled when they warned of the negative impact of management decisions. Now teaching quality, student experience, staff workloads, and wellbeing are all threatened by the proposed job cuts.

The courses targeted at Kingston are part of a wider attack on the humanities, social sciences and arts, particularly in post-92 universities, that will dramatically narrow student choice, access, and participation in these critical subject areas. This would undermine Kingston’s commitment to widening participation, and reduce student and staff diversity in the affected departments.

Kingston UCU and KU students are mobilising to resist these cruel and short-sighted management decisions. We are calling upon Kingston University to halt with immediate effect these cuts and closures, reinstate all suspended courses, remove the threat of redundancies, and commit to maintain current staffing numbers.

We will need the full support of the branch and all members of the University community in this.

What can you do?

  1. Support the campaign by signing and sharing this petition 

  2. Follow us on our social media accounts: Twitter: @kingstonucu @uni_kingston @savekupolitics. Instagram: @savekingstonuni @savekupolitics.

  3. Tweet and amplify using: #SaveKingstonUni #saveKUpolitics #saveKUhistory #saveKUmedia #saveKUfilm

  4. Add #SaveKingstonUni to your email signature for one day – tomorrow 18th May

  5. Share this post with colleagues who are not UCU members who care about the future of the social sciences, arts and humanities at Kingston University

Want to get more involved? Contact us if you want to join our dynamic team of staff and students on Slack, where we are organising together to fight for the future of this university.

Emergency Branch Meeting – Politics, History, Media & Communication, and Film Cultures ‘consultation’ processes launched

This Wednesday 28th 3-5pm, you are invited to a Kingston UCU branch meeting to discuss recent management decisions affecting Politics, History, Media & Communication, and Film Cultures. As of last week, staff in each of these subject areas are currently in a 45 day consultation process – at the end of this process there is a serious risk of redundancies. There has been a failure by senior management to consult here which your branch regards as a breach of  our trade union Recognition Agreement with the university and the Managing Organisational Restructures Procedure.

The purpose of this meeting will primarily be to discuss our collective response to these decisions.

This meeting will take place on Zoom – members have been emailed a calendar invite. If you haven’t received one, please Contact Us.

We hope you can make it. Please do not worry if you are only able to attend some of the meeting – we know it is a busy time for everyone.

Update: Threats to jobs in Politics, History, Media & Communications and Film Studies

“Suspension of UG Politics Courses – who will be next?”

This was the headline from our last branch newsletter. Now we know who will be next as unfortunately colleagues in History, Film Studies and Media and Communication have been targeted in a course rationalisation process in KSA that will seek to form three new schools in that Faculty. History colleague FTE’s are to be reduced from 3 to 0 whilst colleagues in Film Studies and Media and Communication have been rather arbitrarily lumped together to find a reduction in FTE’s from 13.3 to 7.2.

Thus, there is the possibility of job losses for a significant number of our colleagues from different parts of the university. This is how management thanks us for working so hard over the last year in these truly extraordinary times and helping them to keep the university afloat. Clearly management does not have the best interests of their employees at heart and no amount of faux concern about stress and mental health issues on Staffspace can hide this.

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UCU condemns KU decision to suspend recruitment to Politics, International Relations and Human Rights UG courses

National UCU has issued a statement condemning Kingston University’s decision to suspend recruitment its Politics, International Relations and Human Rights undergraduate courses for its 2021 intake.

UCU said it is concerned that the suspension could eventually result in the courses closing altogether with inevitable knock-on effects on students and staff, risking jobs in the department and damaging the learning prospects of politically engaged students. This in a time of increased political engagement amongst students and the wider community in terms of Black Lives Matter, the Me Too movement, LGBTQ+ issues and the climate crisis agenda.

Read in full: UCU condemns decision by Kingston University to suspend recruitment to its Politics, International Relations and Human Rights undergraduate courses