The University plans to appoint a reader/professor in theatre and sack one lecturer specialising in film and one lecturer specialising in television. This is part of the University’s plans to both save money and to reshape the University ‘strategically’. The two lecturers who will be dismissed are most likely to be junior members of staff (the department has a high proportion of young lecturers) and the new reader/professor will certainly be on a much higher pay scale. Therefore, the cost saving objective behind this plan is not apparent. Neither does the ‘reshaping strategy’ (e.g. scaling back film and television while investing in theatre) have any clear reasoning behind it. Repeatedly, the University has claimed that the decision to favour theatre in the current plans is based upon perceptions of relative research strength. For example, early in the process of planning where to make cuts, the University management suggested that film performed less well in the last RAE (Research Assessment Exercise). It was pointed out that this was pure speculation (the RAE results are completely anonymous and do not identify individual lecturers let alone separate theatre from film or television) and they eventually retracted this claim (or, rather, stopped saying it). However, they continue to point to the perceived greatest value for the department of theatre as a research discipline as the basis for their decisions. Whenever they are questioned on the academic basis for their strategy, the University management is unable to point to any factual data, any objective or empirical evidence. We, the undersigned, point out that the University seems to be basing their continued strategy, which will destroy two careers, on gossip and innuendo.
Moreover, by singling out film and television specialists, the University is effectively undermining the interdisciplinarity of the department, which is one of its renowned features. For example, the BA in Film and Theatre is a single-honours degree. The disciplines are substantially integrated through the department’s teaching, both at undergraduate and postgraduate level, as well as through the department’s research. Moreover, the recently advertised post of reader/professor in theatre would be the replacement of a retired member of staff whose job title was ‘professor in film and drama’.
We note that the department has been unable to appoint at reader level or above in theatre on two separate occasions (the post was last advertised in August 2010 and the University was unable to draw up a shortlist of a sufficient calibre). In effect, this means that the University will fire two (almost certainly junior) academics in order to have the ‘research leadership’ of a person who they cannot find. This is not only morally indefensible but is also severely misguided. The department is a very young one (in terms of the age of its lecturers), the University having repeatedly invested in the long-term potential of junior staff. Neither the University nor the department has ever suggested junior staff are not fulfilling this potential, so they should have the patience to realise the long-term vision their previous appointments demonstrated and reward the excellence in teaching and research displayed by this vibrant department. The University has also invested in an £11 million building for the department (opening Easter this year), which will contain state of the art facilities for theatre, film and television, and we, the undersigned, suggest the University should better value the staff who will work in its new buildings.
In the current climate, many will feel that financial savings must be made at Reading and at other universities. However, here as elsewhere, savings can be made by voluntary redundancy and the non-replacement of staff. We do not accept the University pursuing a misguided and short-termist agenda that will destroy careers, staff morale, will weaken the diversity of research and teaching in the department and is part of a ‘strategy’ that is ill-conceived and lacks an objective grounding in fact.
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To those signing the petition, we ask if you would please email as many of the senior members of the University of Reading management that you can in order to protest against its mistreatment of staff and to demand that it withdraw from its plans for a new appointment in theatre so that it can save existing posts.
The email addresses are below and we have also included a suggested template for the email at the bottom. Please use/don’t use as you see fit. We would be so grateful if you can show your support for the staff in Reading FTT in any way you can and protest against the sacking of two lecturers in order to get in a new, more senior member of staff. This is all part of a severely misguided (not to mention callous) management agenda.
Thank you so much for your support!
Gordon Marshall (Vice Chancellor): firstname.lastname@example.org
Christopher Fisher (President of University Council): email@example.com
Tony Downes (Deputy Vice Chancellor): firstname.lastname@example.org
Rob Robson (Pro-Vice Chancellor for Teaching and Learning): email@example.com
Sue Walker (Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities): firstname.lastname@example.org
Jonathan Bignell (Head of School of Arts, English and Communication Design and member of FTT department): email@example.com
I call on the University of Reading to withdraw its plans to make two lecturers redundant in its Film, Theatre and Television department (FTT) while appointing a new reader/professor in the same department. The University says that its ‘intention remains of course to avoid the need for compulsory redundancy where this is possible’ yet these redundancies are clearly avoidable here – a reader/professor clearly costs a lot more than the lecturers the University plans to dismiss. These redundancies will not only potentially destroy two careers, they will undermine the interdisciplinarity the FTT department is known for and the diversity and vibrancy of its teaching and research.
In the current climate, the University management clearly feels that financial savings must be made. However, here as elsewhere, the savings can be made by voluntary redundancy and the non-replacement of staff. I contend that this would be a much less divisive and much less destructive way of coping with the current funding crisis and would therefore prove to be a much more effective management policy in the longer term.
Thanks for your time in reading this.
The University claims that its ‘intention remains of course to avoid the need for compulsory redundancy where this is possible’ yet these redundancies are avoidable. These redundancies will not only potentially destroy two careers, they will undermine the interdisciplinary ethos, structure and teaching of the department. The University is pursuing more than just a cost-saving agenda and their plans set a dangerous precedent for the University of Reading and for institutions around the country.
We, the undersigned, support the demand by Reading UCU (University and College Union) for the University to withdraw from all compulsory redundancies and for it to advertise a voluntary severance scheme to all University staff. The financial savings the University is looking to make (as well as academic reshaping) can be achieved through this process.