Management fail to defend their own reforms in democratic forum!

Warwick’s management failed to even offer a single word in defence of their proposed changes to Statute 24 at the recent staff Assembly meeting.

The changes, which will gut job security at Warwick – and have already been condemned by numerous departments for infringing on academic freedom – were voted against by the largest, most democratic body of academic staff on campus, the Assembly. Staff voted 97% against the changes.

Astonishingly, management failed to muster a single person to defend the indefensible reforms. Even management knows the obvious: that there is no argument imaginable for gutting academic freedom, stifling debate, and creating huge job insecurity at Warwick. They refuse to debate these reforms in an open forum, and prefer to use back-door methods to railroad the changes through.

This shameful process of ‘reform’ has exposed the undemocratic nature of management rule at Warwick. These reforms are bad for everyone: for students, academic staff, and the University’s reputation as a whole. We can and must stop them. If management won’t see reason, students and staff will forced to take more drastic measures.

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.

DEFEND ACADEMIC FREEDOM! #SaveOurStatute!

History of Art slams Statute 24 reforms for “infringing upon academic freedom and intellectual independence”

History of Art has endorsed a motion from the Law School condemning the proposed changes to Statute 24. The full motion reads as follows:

As a Law School we recognise that the proposed reform of Statute 24 and its related Ordinances infringes upon academic freedom and the intellectual independence of our profession, both in terms of substance and procedure.

We commit therefore to act as an example within the University in communicating the School’s concerns to the Vice-Chancellor, and to support the ongoing negotiations and consultations by the trade unions and other colleagues, including supporting any proposed motion for debate of the reforms at a Staff Assembly.

The department joins Warwick Law School, the Centre for Applied Linguistics, and the Centre for Education Studies in slamming the reforms and calling for their suspension.

The changes will undoubtedly negatively impact academic freedom and job security at Warwick for our academic staff. To find out more about the reforms and how to help stop them, see here.

#SaveOurStatute

Centre for Applied Linguistics and Centre for Education Studies condemn Statute 24 reforms

The Centre for Applied Linguistic and the Centre for Education Studies have condemned the proposed gutting of Statute 24. In an identical motion passed by both departments, academics noted that the proposed changes would “expose individuals to job insecurity if their academic priorities and/or ideologies differed from those of their line managers, and would therefore stifle debate”.

The two departments argued that, “Detailed procedures about academic grievance, dismissal and redundancy should not be moved from Statute to HR policy, precisely because the latter can be easily changed without recourse to debate among those stakeholders currently represented by the University Council. Procedures in Statute form a stable part of terms and conditions of employment, whereas procedures in HR policy would not.”

CAL and CES join Warwick Law School in a growing list of Warwick departments which have slammed the changes working their way through Warwick’s governance structures.

The changes will undoubtedly negatively impact academic freedom and job security at Warwick for our academic staff. To find out more about the reforms and how to help stop them, see here.

Warwick Law School condemns proposed Statute 24 reforms for “infringing upon academic freedom”

Warwick Law School have passed a motion condemning management’s proposed changes to Statute 24. The motion reads as follows:

As a Law School we recognise that the proposed reform of Statute 24 and its related Ordinances infringes upon academic freedom and the intellectual independence of our profession, both in terms of substance and procedure.

We commit therefore to act as an example within the University in communicating the School’s concerns to the Vice-Chancellor, and to support the ongoing negotiations and consultations by the trade unions and other colleagues, including supporting any proposed motion for debate of the reforms at a Staff Assembly.

In a letter to Stuart Croft, the Vice-Chancellor, the Law School stated that “the meeting was unanimously of the view that the procedure by which it is proposed to replace statute 24, without full prior consultation with the academic community, is inappropriate in view of its importance in relation to academics’ contracts and relations between the University and its academic departments.”

The School also said: “We would ask that any further consideration of these measures should be put on hold until the University has explained the rationale and expected impact of the proposed changes and has facilitated full consultation with the academic staff, departments and Faculties.”

Other departments have passed similar motions. The staff Assembly, the most democratic collective body of academic staff on campus, passed a motion with 97% in favour condemning the reforms. Warwick cannot continue to silence and ignore the overwhelming voice of the academic community.

Save Our Statute! Defend Academic Freedom at Warwick!

Find out more about how you can help the campaign here.

Bristol UCU in solidarity with Warwick UCU’s struggle for academic freedom!

Bristol UCU have released a statement of solidarity with Warwick UCU’s fight against reform to Statute 24, which will crush academic freedom, destroy employment protections, and worsen teaching quality at Warwick. See the statement below:

University of Bristol UCU expresses its solidarity with Warwick UCU in its ‘Save Our Statue’ Campaign.

Warwick University’s statue reforms, the repealing of current provisions for redundancy, discipline and dismissal, effectively making it both quicker and easier to sack academics, are a blow to academic freedom and job security at Warwick University and Higher Education in general.

They represent yet another example of a UK university’s callous disregard as regards protecting staff from the whims of unaccountable academic management.

Warwick’s disgraceful institutional behavior in the Docherty affair in 2014-15 clearly did not serve as much of a lesson.

Bristol UCU asks that the reforms are withdrawn as soon as possible and joins with its sister Warwick branch in advocating the continuance of the current Stature 24 at Warwick

Find out more about Statute 24 reform and how you can get involved here.

What is Statute 24 reform, why does it matter, and how do we stop it?

What is Statute 24?

A statute is a part of the University’s governance structures. Statutes set rules and regulations determining what management positions there are, how the university is structured, and lay down employment protections. Once something is in statute, it is very hard for management to change it, making statutory protections particularly robust. To change statute, management need to go through the University Senate and Council, and the national Privy Council.

Statute 24 is the statute which protects academic freedom at Warwick. It contains an abstract commitment to academic freedom and, more importantly, concrete limitations on when and how staff can be fired, a clear appeals mechanism, and the ability to have legal representation and oversight of the disciplinary process.

What is Warwick trying to do to Statute 24?

Warwick is seeking to move all of the concrete employment protections – appeals process, legal representation, protections against unfair dismissal – into ordinary policy. This means management could – and almost certainly would – change and water down these employment protections at a later date, without anyone knowing, and without any ability for staff to stop them. This is exactly what happened at Salford University: statutory employment protections were moved to policy, and over the course of several years they were subsequently abolished. 13 rounds of job cuts ensued, and the academic community was decimated.

Why should we care?

Firstly, academic freedom is one of the most important rights for a democratic society. The ability for academics to pursue innovative, controversial, or commercially unproductive work is vital for making the University a vibrant, dynamic intellectual environment. Academics are there to test received wisdom and challenge accepted dogmas. To do so, they need some insulation from the pressures of management, the state, and the market. Statute 24 reform will severely endanger this. UCU, the staff union, fear that removing these employment protections could result in academic staff at Warwick being sacked “in a matter of weeks” for “disagreeing with departmental or university policy”. Thomas Docherty, the Warwick English academic and critic of the neo-liberal university who was suspended in 2014 for “projecting negative body language, making ‘ironic’ comments and sighing during interviews”, argues that he would have lost his job permanently at the time if it weren’t for Statute 24.

Secondly, academic staff need their employment rights protected. Since Margaret Thatcher made the UK one of the few countries in the developed world without academic tenure, staff rely on their individual university statutes for security and stability. Removing these protections will increase stress levels, making staff more precarious, unsure about their long-term prospects, and afraid to challenge management and the University.

Thirdly, teaching quality will almost inevitably decline if these reforms pass. Because staffs’ working conditions are students’ learning conditions, a decline in the freedom and individual rights of academic staff will inevitably rebound on students. After statutory protections were scrapped in Salford University, class sizes expanded, workload for academics increased, and teaching quality declined. We could be in for the same here at Warwick – it is no wonder that the head of Warwick UCU has described these changes as “most significant changes at Warwick for 30 years”.

Already six departments have condemned the reforms, with Warwick Law School declaring that “the proposed reform of Statute 24 … infringes upon academic freedom and the intellectual independence of our profession”. Assembly, the biggest democratic body of staff on campus, has passed a motion calling for the reforms to be halted, with 97% voting against the changes to Statute 24. Staff need our solidarity.

Can we defeat these reforms?

Yes! Similar reforms have been proposed at UCL, and elsewhere, and successfully fought off after a concerted and unified effort by students and staff. In 2015, Warwick proposed a new employment outsourcing scheme, TeachHigher, which was smashed after a large campaign waged by students. Recently, great strides have been made by Warwick Anti-Casualisation and the Warwick For Free Education in winning more rights for hourly-paid tutors. We have, and can win again!

What can you do?

  1. Sign UCU’s petition against the reforms to Statute 24.
  2. Attend our emergency action to save academic freedom at Warwick! Saturday June 24th, 11AM, at the Koan on campus.
  3. Sign up to our Thunderclap to send Warwick a strong message over Statute 24 reform, and to advertise the emergency action.
  4. Get in touch with your departmental Senate representative directly, and ask them to vote against Statute 24 on June 14. You can find the Senate representatives for your department, and a model email to send, here.
  5. Like, follow, share, RT, invite all your friends to our social media accounts:
  6. Help organise! Get in contact with Warwick For Free Education on Facebook or email us on warwick4freeeducation@gmail.com if you want to do more to help: social media, action coordination, press work, and more.

To find out more about Statute 24 reform, head to UCU Warwick’s information page or check out this explanatory article in the Warwick Globalist.

Why Are We Boycotting the National Student Survey?

What is the NSS boycott?

The National Student Survey (NSS) is a questionnaire final-year undergraduate students are encouraged to fill out, ostensibly to measure ‘student satisfaction’ with their course. Following a motion passed at NUS conference last year, students across the country are campaigning to boycott the Survey . This is part of a wider strategy to stop the higher education reforms currently rolling through parliament, by jamming one of the reform’s key mechanisms.

The boycott as a tactic to stop the HE reforms

The Survey itself is a terrible series of metrics for measuring teaching quality – but that’s not the central reason for the boycott strategy. Primarily, the boycott is a tactic being utilised in a wider campaign to stop the government’s higher education reforms.

The whole student movement – along with the largest academic union – is united in opposition to the HE reforms, which are forcing marketisation on the university sector, raising tuition fees, and allowing private providers further access to education provision. They constitute a wide-ranging assault on the principles of free, liberated, critical education.

To stop this legislation in its tracks, we need some leverage. Persuading and lobbying government ministers is a tried and failed strategy; the government is intent in ramming these reforms through, and at the moment we are failing to stop them. As Marco Giugni, a scholar of social movements from the University of Geneva puts it, “the power to disrupt the institutions and, more generally, the society is the principal resource that social movements have at their disposal to produce a political impact”. We need to rebalance the power asymmetry facing us by mobilising large numbers of students in an attempt to jam the mechanisms that are essential to the reform’s smooth functioning.

Why boycotting the NSS will give us leverage

The scores of the NSS are an integral part of the system of marketisation, metrics and magic tricks being imposed on higher education. They will be directly related to the right of universities to raise tuition fees (as the scores contribute to universities’ ranking in the Teaching Excellence Framework [TEF], and institutions which rank highly on the TEF will have the right to raise fees).

The NSS can only work if the data it produces has some credibility. Ipsos MORI, the company which runs the Survey, usually refuses to use data from universities which fail to get 50% of their students to fill out the Survey over a number of years. If we can drive down participation in the Survey below 50% (this may take a sustained boycott over two or more years) then the data will be officially junk, unable to be used. Achieving this doesn’t require uniform engagement with the boycott by all students and all unions; the level of participation required for tactical success is well within the abilities of the NUS and NCAFC to achieve. UCU, the largest academic union, is also in favour of the tactic, opening up copious opportunities for effective student-staff solidarity.

If we can wreck the Survey’s data, it will have a number of effects, including rendering one of the prime measures used in calculating the TEF (a central part of the marketisation of higher education) useless, harming the government’s efforts to impose competition on the sector. It will also incentivise those universities with strong boycott campaigns on campus to pressure the government to enter into negotiations with the student movement. Universities where less than 50% of students fill in the Survey may be unable to raise tuition fees, giving them a strong financial interest in a seeing a settlement between students and government.

Crucially, the NSS boycott is not a panacea, a one-off golden bullet aimed at the heart of the HE reforms. It will probably have to be performed over a number of years, and will have to be combined with a range of other tactics, from a local to a national level: information events, national demos, direct action and more. But the NSS boycott is a tactical innovation with real potential for our struggle.

Want to find out more? Attend our ‘Boycott the NSS Forum‘ on Wednesday February 22. 

A version of this article was first published on the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts website.