Outcomes of KSA and Politics ‘consultations’

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 (s.spier@kingston.ac.uk) and Board of Governors (KU-Secretariat@kingston.ac.uk) opposing compulsory redundancies, the withdrawal of History and the winding down of Politics.


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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KU UCU’s response to KSA Stage 1 dispute hearing outcome

In January we wrote to senior management over a recorded failure to agree, in accordance with the Collective Disputes Procedure and entered into a Stage 1 dispute with the University over its handling of the potential job losses in KSA, among other issues.

A formal Stage 1 meeting was held on 18th February, chaired by Dean of the Faculty of Science, Engineering & Computing / Pro Vice-Chancellor David Mackintosh. We received a letter stating the outcome of the meeting from David Mackintosh, which members can read here: Management Letter Outcome_Stage_1_210220

As far as the University is concerned, this dispute is now closed and we are unable to progress to Stage 2 of this process. However, we have serious issues with the way in which this process was handled. We dispute the university’s own judgement of the outcome of the Stage 1 (Resolution meeting) as set out in the letter.

We maintain that Kingston UCU branch has NOT been involved in any meaningful consultation or negotiation about the extent of the debt in KSA, its origins, the impact on remaining overworked staff, the future shape of KSA currently being determined by a Portfolio Review or the timing or potential for any future job losses.

You can read our full response to the outcome letter, here formulated by the Kingston UCU branch at the branch meeting on the 18th February: Response to dispute 6 March_. We believe:

  • the meeting was not impartial (the chair was partial)
  • HR should not have been providing the management response
  • there has been a failure to negotiate
  • there has been a failure to consult
  • there has been a failure to provide information
  • there are holes in the management case (as noted in our timeline documentation)
  • current management timelines related to KSA jobs reveal a continued lack of negotiation and consultation with recognised trade unions

Increasingly, it’s our opinion that, regrettably, management uses their notion of “consultation and negotiation” as a tick-box exercise to give legitimacy to decisions already made in the absence of informed input and scrutiny from the experts on the ground – hardworking academic staff. Whilst UCU values its relationship with KU management and our HR colleagues and the opportunity to negotiate and consult on behalf of our members, we are no longer prepared for that relationship to be abused in the plainly unsatisfactory manner outlined above.


UCU dispute and KSA – Update

We have been notified of the recent email regarding the UCU dispute sent to staff in KSA and FBSS.

We (Kingston University UCU) completely and irrevocably disagree with the content of the message, in particular the following statement which is untrue and, we believe, designed to mislead.

‘The process for the voluntary severance scheme, which launched in June 2019, included several discussions with our unions, both informally and at our regular Joint Negotiation and Consultation Committee meetings (JNCC), where our trade unions including UCU provided helpful feedback which contributed to the design of the final scheme’.

The facts are:

Monday 17th June 2019  – UCU invited to informal ‘catch up’ with HR.

Tuesday 18th June, 1pm  – At ‘informal catch up’ UCU were told of an imminent announcement regarding KSA, and the planned staff meeting for CHS & ArCC staff the following day. No details of the announcement were divulged at this meeting. UCU requested that representatives be invited to the meeting on Wed 19th June.

Wednesday 19th June – UCU attended the CHS & ArCC staff meeting  and it was at this meeting that UCU, along with affected staff, first received information about the opening of the Voluntary Severance (VS)/ Voluntary Exit (VEP) scheme and the need for £1.5M cuts in the form of staff reductions.

At NO time prior to this were UCU involved in consultation or negotiation about the KSA situation nor did we make any contribution to the VS/ VEP scheme planning. Subsequent to the 19th June meeting, UCU requested an extension to the deadline dates specified at the launch; this request was granted.

We will update members with a fuller response soon.

Kingston UCU now in formal dispute with the university over lack of negotiation and consultation on KSA redundancies

On 29th January 2020, following a Joint Negotiating and Consultative Committee (JNCC) meeting at which a failure to agree was recorded, Kingston UCU branch wrote to senior management in accordance with the Collective Disputes Procedure.

It is the branch’s view that there has been no consultation or negotiation about the need to make £1.5m worth of staff savings in the School of ArCC and Department of CHS nor about the decision to instigate a voluntary severance scheme to effect those savings in part.  Instead our members have been asked to blindly accept the amount of cuts and the need for voluntary redundancies.  It is therefore clear that Kingston University has already made a strategic decision that has subsequently led to redundancies and that any following proposal for a 45-day consultation period is meaningless.

Given Kingston University’s complete failure to engage with the usual information, consultation and negotiation structures relating to these changes, UCU have no option but to reasonably conclude that those processes would be futile in this instance. Therefore the formal disputes procedure has been invoked.

If you want to contribute to this process and/or have evidence to input please contact us. Please come to the branch meeting on Tuesday 25th February or Wednesday 26th February to discuss this and other urgent matters facing our branch.

KSA Dean’s response to the Open Letter

Back in December, we submitted an open letter to the Dean of KSA, Mandy Ure, expressing our concerns about the portfolio review process currently underway in KSA (you can see the letter here). We received a (fairly) unsatisfactory response from the Dean:

The response is somewhat disingenuous in terms of the Kingston UCU position, which is (and always has been) that we are against any redundancies but if these are unavoidable then our preference is for individually negotiated voluntary severances rather than compulsory redundancies.

As usual, KU management are consulting after making decisions when UCU should be involved in the decision-making processes to seek to mitigate job losses. There seems to be a clear and fixed intention already to make redundancies and a decision about how to make at least some of those redundancies seems to have been made. Voluntary redundancies are still redundancy dismissals in that an employer cannot decide on how many applications for voluntary redundancy to accept until it has decided upon where and how many redundancy dismissals may take effect. There is also an obligation to consult about ways to mitigate the effect of any dismissals and UCU have not been involved in this prior to the issuing of any VS notices. Given that there has been a portfolio review in KSA for a number of months now to which UCU has not been invited, we feel that it is very likely that the university is in breach of our Facilities Agreement with them. This is a very serious issue.