Newcastle University has said no to coercive performance management!
UPDATE, 6 June 2016
At a negotiation meeting this afternoon significant progress was made, including the withdrawal of the research performance documents at both University and Faculty levels. UCU reaffirmed our commitment to this institution being a world-class civic University.
A dispute resolution document is attached [at the bottom of this statement]
This will be considered by UCU's Annual General Meeting on Wednesday 8th June. It is the unanimous view of the UCU negotiating team (Bruce Baker [Branch Vice-President], Stacey Gillies [UCU branch committee], Joan Harvey [Branch President], Iain Owens [Regional official], MIchael MacNeil [UCU national head of bargaining and negotiations], Matt Perry [UCU Branch Secretary) to recommend the agreement. As a consequence, the marking and assessment boycott will be withdrawn.
I would like to thank Michael Macneil, UCU head negotiator, for coming up to Newcastle today and also all my UCU colleagues through these complex and often difficult times.
Dr Joan Harvey
President Newcastle University UCU
Academic Framework for Research Improvement
The Key Principles
The University and UCU are in agreement that:
· we reaffirm our commitment to being a world-class civic University
· as a University we want to make a difference through our research by focusing on, and addressing some of society's most pressing challenges
· we want to work in a University that has an excellent reputation and can attract and retain the best people (staff and students)
· We develop a common understanding and collegial approach to improving research
To do this we recognise that:
· performing well in key metric exercises such as the REF is important even if some of the rules are problematic
· it is problematic to focus exclusively on quantitative targets
· we want to succeed within certain policy environments and funding structures
· we have a diversity of subjects, with specific research cultures
· it is necessary to continue to improve the research performance of the University
· any work in this area must be integrated with our planning for REF 2020 and the outcomes we need to achieve so that we retain our reputation as a world-class University
· aligned with this we need to focus at the collective level on academic disciplines, research groups and REF Units of Assessment in our planning so that we can effectively evaluate and address our performance
· we need to establish a non-coercive culture and approach
Delivering Research Excellence
To achieve this we should encourage staff to participate in establishing appropriate subject and Unit of Assessment academic frameworks to improve our research performance. We aim to have these in place by 31 December 2016 (in so far as there is more clarity by then on REF 2020).
The University and UCU will monitor and review the implementation of the academic framework for research improvement as necessary and this will be a standing item at JNC. We will also use this to identify and address any issues that impact on staff members.
This will be via a process:
· of collaborative working with academic disciplines, research groups and future REF units of assessment at its core
· that is consultative and inclusive.
To work together effectively to achieve this UCU and the University would both agree to the withdrawal:
· from the current Industrial Action
· of the Expectations for Research Performance documents (University and Faculty)
· of the ‘Raising the Bar’ terminology.
Professor Tony Stevenson Deputy Vice-Chancellor
Michael MacNeil UCU National Head of Bargaining and Negotiation
Iain Owens UCU Regional Official
Dr Joan Harvey UCU Newcastle President
Dr Bruce Baker UCU Newcastle Vice-President Operations
Dr Matt Perry UCU Newcastle Honorary Secretary
Dr Stacy Gillis Branch Officer
6 June 2016
- Vice Chancellor, Newcastle University
1 June 2016
Dear Vice-Chancellor Brink,
It is nearly a year now since the UCU was first made aware of the Research Performance Expectations that comprise part of the Raising the Bar agenda. Since the documents themselves were introduced at the beginning of this academic year, many academics across the university have been concerned for how these new requirements would affect them personally and for how they would affect the University more broadly. The UCU, along with other segments of the University community, including many professors and students, have campaigned against this policy. Having exhausted other avenues, we now find ourselves on the brink of beginning a marking boycott to try to convince University management to rethink this policy. As the people at the University who teach the students, this is not an action we take lightly, knowing the distress it is causing our students.
It need not be this way, and we would like to offer an alternative in order to solve the dispute that has brought us to this position. As the researchers and teachers who comprise this University, we agree wholeheartedly with the ambition to make Newcastle University better, as we know you and the rest of the Executive Board do. We believe that the best way to do that is by engaging in a collaborative, collegial process that invites everyone involved with the University to be part of a decision-making process that we can all then support, a model of how we believe universities work best. To that end, we have drafted the attached proposal, which we would urge you to read and consider. If the management and the academic staff can work together on such a process, we would be able to recommend to our members that we suspend the industrial action while we work in good faith to resolve the issues that led to the dispute.
We await your response and look forward to continuing the process of making Newcastle University the great civic university it has the capacity to be.
Bruce E. Baker
Vice President, Newcastle UCU
Improving Research Together
SUMMARY and PURPOSE
Newcastle University exists to further human understanding of the universe for the benefit of humanity. The UCU recognises that in order to do this, performing well in key audit exercises such as the REF is important as a means to this end. UCU shares the management’s aspiration to do this by improving research. We recognise that Raising the Bar (RTB) was intended to improve the research environment and output of Newcastle University, but the difficulties arising in its conception and application make it unlikely to succeed.
UCU asks the management to (1) withdraw RTB’s Research Expectations documents, and instead (2) to enter into a collaborative process called ‘Improving Research Together’ (IRT).
We propose the outline of an inclusive, collegial, evidence-based, bottom-up process to devise a non-coercive framework in which to foster a higher-performing research community. It would be a partnership between the academic and academic-related staff, and the management (many of whom are academics themselves), with wider input from the communities of interest in which Newcastle is a part.
The purpose of IRT would be to:
- Improve the quality of our research and thereby enhance our reputation.
- Develop a common understanding and collegial approach to improving research.
- Establish Newcastle University’s distinct reputation as having an enviably supportive and non-coercive culture, thereby attracting and retaining the best staff.
Indeed, recognising the existing concentration of expertise on HE reform in our institution, such a ‘Newcastle Model’ could ultimately serve as an inspiration for universities around the UK.
We propose that IRT would be developed over eight phases between July 2016 and January 2017:
1) July 21 2016: An outline will be offered for discussion before the whole university community at a grand forum (hosted by the VC and UCU). Following this, a steering committee will be formed to guide this process. It would include representatives of the Executive Board, the UCU, the Student Union, the Professoriate, and other relevant bodies identified at the grand forum.
2) JULY 25 – SEPTEMBER 30: The steering committee would commission a study of the scholarly evidence in relevant literatures such as university management and outcomes-based performance management in the public and higher education sectors. This study will be undertaken by a group of Newcastle University scholars with research records on this topic.
3) 9 SEPTEMBER– 28 OCTOBER: The steering committee will run a series of unit-level meetings across the University. These will take place at existing subject, school and research unit levels, and in sessions convened by the three societal challenge institutes. The essential question will be: how can we improve our research? This will be broken down into other questions:
• How can outputs be turned into 3* and 4* publications? What are successful parts of the University already doing or proposing to achieve this? For example, ‘front-loaded’ IQA used in ECLS and ‘communities of learning’ being developed in the Business School, which focus on improving outputs before publication.
• How can we create research environments conducive to fostering the best research?
• How can we be seen to perform well in flawed auditing exercises such as the REF without abandoning the historic vision of universities?
• How can we ensure that equality and diversity are embedded in the research culture?
• How can we attract and support postgraduate researchers?
• How can we better harness the knowledge, experience and skills of colleagues on research-only or ‘teaching and scholarship’ contracts?
• How can we be more successful at getting grants for those projects that require significant funding?
• How can we attract and retain the best staff by improving the reputation of Newcastle University?
• Where relevant, as a civic university, how can we ensure our research makes more of a difference to society?
• How can we assist academics to improve their research, whilst protecting the autonomy that is crucial for creative thought?
Written submissions will also be accepted.
5) 31 OCTOBER – 18 NOVEMBER: Interim conclusions and recommendations will be drafted by the steering committee, and released to the university community for comment.
6) Week beginning 28 NOVEMBER: an ‘expert hearing’ will be held. Leading scholars who have reflected on the place of the modern university and who are friends of the University due to having received honorary degrees, offered visiting lectures, and having established research links with the University, will be invited to reflect in an open, public forum on the steering committee’s finding and proposals.
7) 16 DECEMBER: Second draft of findings and recommendations released to University community for comment, and subjected to an equality and diversity impact assessment.
8) JANUARY 2017. Final report and recommendations released. Appropriate mechanism to be decided upon to approve them so that ownership is taken by the University’s whole scholarly community.
This is an outline proposal, created with input from scholars across all faculties, to begin a process of collegial dialogue, and would be subject to modification.
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