Warwick’s Institute for Employment Research (IER) has passed a scathing motion condemning the proposed changes to Statute 24, saying the reforms would “undermine the protections [academic] staff are currently afforded,” lead to a “curtailment of academic freedom,” and promote “short term thinking and groupthink”.

If any set of academics are in a position to understand the impacts of the proposed reforms, it is the IER, which focuses on issues of labour markets, employment relations, and higher education. The motion details in clear terms the huge dangers posed by management’s reforms:

  1. “The university’s intention to move procedural detail from statute,” the IER motion notes, “will mean that at any future point policies can be changed or amended by university management without the current levels of scrutiny. We believe that keeping such detail under statute is the best insurance against any future management’s attempts to make unilateral changes to the substantive areas of discipline, grievance, redundancy and sickness.”
  2. “The proposed redundancy policy reduces council oversight in redundancy situations and places greater powers in the hands of HoDs. In practice this will result in a curtailment of academic freedom and is likely to lead to short term thinking and groupthink. Ability to challenge prevailing wisdom will be reduced.”
  3. “Similarly council oversight is removed from the disciplinary process […] Coupled with a disciplinary process which is more extensive in its detail of misconduct than defined under statute, including it is noted ‘conduct which does damage [to] the reputation of the university’, we are concerned about the message which this sends to staff.

This last point, noting that academics could now be threatened with disciplinaries for “conduct which does damage to the reputation of the university”, is particularly chilling. This is part of the marketisation of higher education, where universities are increasingly encouraged to act like corporate entities concerned about their brand image and the control of dissident thought, rather than as dynamic, heterogeneous, critical institutions, aimed at personal and societal liberation.

The IER joins Warwick Law School, the History of Art department, the Centre for Applied Linguistics and the Centre for Education Studies in condemning the gutting of Statute 24 in the strongest of terms.

To find out more about the reforms and how to help stop them, see here. To read an in-depth analysis of the likely impact of the reforms, and how similar proposals have been defeated at other universities, see here.



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