Academic freedom is under unprecedented threat at the University of Warwick. Statute 24 the key component of Warwick’s constitution which commits the University to uphold academic freedom, prevents politicised removal of staff, and offers a clear appeals process for disciplined academics is being gutted by Warwick’s management. Similar reforms have occurred at universities across the country. At some – like UCL – the proposed reforms have been fought off by a united student-staff campaign. At others – like Salford University – the statute has been smashed, and wave after wave of job cuts have followed, decimating the academic community and wrecking teaching quality.

We refuse to stand by whilst job security and academic freedom is squeezed and suffocated by the whimsical dictats of a managerial elite. We call for an emergency action during the University open day on Saturday 24 June, to stand in solidarity with staff and dig the last ditch for the defence of liberty at Warwick. We call on all students, staff and sympathetic observers to descend on campus and tell management in no uncertain terms: hands off Statute 24!

UCU, the staff union, today voted to move towards taking industrial action over the issue. At least eight departments have slammed the reforms, warning in the darkest tones that the era of academic freedom at Warwick hangs on a knife edge. The staff Assembly, the largest democratic body of staff on campus, condemned the proposed reforms with a majority of 97 percent. Management failed to even defend their reforms, and subsequently worked their age-old propaganda tricks to conceal the overwhelming mandate from staff to end the reform process.

Already, academics at Warwick and elsewhere operate in a shockingly stifled environment, reluctant to voice light concerns or put their head above the parapet for fear of an army of HR hacks, PR propagandists and branding bullies descending upon them to protect the University’s corporate image. As universities are forced into revenue-generating activities, protecting the University’s brand identity increasingly trumps intellectual honesty, rigor and free debate. Relentless sectoral competition, imposed by artificial league tables, attempts to cram the qualitatively multi-faceted educational experience into a series of crude quantitative metrics. You will find few outside government circles who believe British higher education is heading in the right direction. Academics and administrators on the continent watch the British experiment in HE marketisation with trepidation, fearing that their country might be next in line for catastrophic neo-liberal ‘reforms’.

It is in this context that the gutting of Statute 24 at Warwick must be viewed. Warwick seeks to make it easier to fire dissenters, those academic thorns-in-the-side-of-management with their pesky views and political engagement. When the vagaries of the market call for it, Warwick wants to be able to wipe legions of academics off the books, alleviating the University of the responsibility to pay them and leaving them to fight poverty.

Well, when management places its brand image above the livelihood of staff, above the principles of higher education, then we will respond by ruining Warwick’s image. We will disrupt, we will tell prospective students that they are coming to a University which cares not for open debate, free exchange of ideas, and job security. And if management think they can weather this storm by waiting it out until term ends: they are mistaken. We will come back in October and double down on our campaign to save academic freedom. If they gut Statute 24, we will fight until we get it back. We are prepared to use the full range of tactics available in our historical repertoire. For three months, UCU and others have tried to speak sense into management. Sadly, the University does not hear them. We are forced to speak the only language it does understand.

Warwick management: abandon your plans to smash Statute 24. Commit to leaving the Statute exactly how it is now. If you do, we will cancel our action and abandon our plans for an ongoing campaign. If not, you have a long fight on your hands.

To find out how else you can get involved in the Statute 24 campaign, see here. To find out more about the reforms, see here.

Staff union call emergency meeting to discuss industrial action over Statute 24 reform!

UCU, the academic staff union on campus, have called an emergency meeting for 12:30PM on Tuesday June 13 in OC0.03. Staff will discuss a motion to take industrial action against the University over the proposed gutting of Statute 24, which will severely imperil freedom at Warwick.

Industrial action could include a strike, marking boycott, or other tactics to place pressure on Warwick’s management through material disruption. Warwick staff embody a long tradition of such tactics, from a week-long strike of service staff on campus in 1973, to a marking boycott over pension reform in 2014/15.

The meeting will not be able to make the final decision over industrial action, but will move the union closer to making it a reality.

Email your tutors and let them know about it! We need as many staff there as possible to send a big message to management that academics are serious about fighting them on this. They also need to reach quorum to be able to go ahead with industrial action.

Defend academic freedom at Warwick! #SaveOurStatute

Statute 24 reform will cause “severe curtailment of academic freedom” says History Department

The Department of History has passed a motion against management’s proposed changes to Statute 24 at a recent staff meeting. Rejecting managements’ claim that the changes are to “simplify and modernise” governance, History staff stated:

“We believe that this represents a severe curtailment of our academic freedom. Statements about academic freedom carry very little weight unless academic staff (meaning those engaged in teaching, the provision of learning and/or research) are afforded the additional protections currently contained within Statute 24.”

The department’s motion comes in addition to 97% of staff across the University voting against the reforms in the staff Assembly, and at least five other departments issuing strongly-worded motions opposing the reforms.

Pointing out the disingenuousness of managements’ claim to be “standardising” the employment conditions of all staff, the Historians pointed out that:

Applying the same policies to all staff represents a ‘levelling down’ that is neither necessary nor fair, given the distinctive nature of academic work which requires extra protections due to the fact that our research may lead us to ‘unpopular’ conclusions and findings that might challenge the status quo and the views of our university management and/or government. Moreover, there are many areas of the University in which different policies and procedures have applied to different staff groups, most notably in relation to probation, which is five years for academic staff but only six-months for other staff.

Senate is a decision-making body that may have the capacity to reject these changes. The academic members that sit there should represent the interests of their faculties. Realising this, the History motion demands that the representatives on Senate and Council “oppose the changes to Statute 24”, and call “for a longer period of discussion, bearing in mind the magnitude of what is being proposed”.

The full text of the motion can be found here.

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.

#SaveOurStatute! Defend Academic Freedom at Warwick!

Management conceal result of staff Assembly in communications

Management have undermined the democratic process of the staff Assembly in their communications output following the meeting.

The result of the Assembly, which voted 97% against the changes to Statute 24 (changes which will gut academic freedom and job security at Warwick, according to numerous departments), was noted in an email sent by Warwick to all staff the other week. The University also posted an update online.

In the online update, Warwick asserted that “The Assembly is not a decision-making body”, essentially writing off the democratic will of the largest academic staff body on campus in one condescending sentence. They also failed to make it clear that the Assembly opposed the reforms, noting only that a “significant majority” voted for the motion “Reforming the University’s Employment Statute, Statute 24” – without explaining what the content of the motion was. This led to widespread confusion amongst those who weren’t at the meeting, with some believing that the Assembly had voted in favour of the reforms! This is clearly a propaganda tactic by management.

This obfuscation is part of a pattern of undemocratic management maneuvering as they attempt to ram these toxic reforms through. The University is showing no interest in debate, transparency and discussion – only in authoritarianism.

Stuart Croft, the Vice Chancellor, has said that the changes are designed to “simplify, clarify and modernise” the Universities governance structures. The language of “modernising” is straight from the neo-liberal playbook. As Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams write, “We all know today that ‘modernisation’ translates into job cuts, the slashing of welfare and the privatisation of government services. To modernise, today, simply means to neoliberalise”. We ought to bear that in mind when confronting the University’s attempt to reframe the changes as inevitable, progressive, modern adaptations.

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.



Institute for Employment Research warns Statute 24 reforms will lead to “curtailment of academic freedom”

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.



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.


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.