The farce continues

Many of us by now will view “Associate Professor” as a debased title. Ostensibly introduced to mimic job titles worldwide, originating in America where all academics are “professors” of some kind, it has been used as a means to force grade 10 staff from their jobs. To survive they have been subject to the ignominy of many hours work to reapply for a grade they earned many years ago. We are now in the latest round of this farce, a process “flawed and an absolute joke” according to one who has suffered.

Comments from those involved show that the decision making is arbitrary and changes from faculty to faculty. Published criteria are almost meaningless. Some applicants have been judged to meet the criteria in one or two domains in one round, only to fail all in the next. Reasons given, when there are any, have lately been along the lines of staff being expected to develop. That is, staff must meet higher and higher standards, despite the lack of definition of these standards. Any notion of equal opportunities is disregarded.

In early rounds applicants were expected to meet the majority of criteria in their main domain, about half in the minor. This has been changed without consultation to include compulsory criteria such as the supervision of research students. Yet even with a PhD student some applicants are still facing demotion. The inconsistent interpretation of criteria may be judged from the following Faculty missives:

whilst the criteria have not changed, and indeed there has been relative improvement, the baseline expectation for the level required to meet the presumptive level of performance has increased (in common with the HE sector as a whole)

the panel takes a view across the individual criteria – combining them in a similar way to an ‘accumulator’ in a game show.  In other words, it is the integrated performance across the piece that is key – and how this fits with expectation

The University is certainly playing games with its grade 10 staff, and we can see from these waffle words that it is almost impossible to know how to achieve the level required. Even the panels do not agree with each other.

Another new requirement is the attainment of SFHEA, the title one gets after producing a laborious 7000 word document. Staff, at least in some faculties, must acquire this to move to AP. But news has reached this blog that there have been different views on this between faculties, some of which insisted on it, while others did not. To confuse the picture further, some staff who already had SFHEA were rejected.

Those who have made it to AP should not think the ordeal has necessarily ended for them. Management is now saying that APs who have not received the required HEA accreditation by July 2017 will be demoted to SL along with the remaining PLs and Readers.

There is one happy story to tell. One unsuccessful AP is now an Associate Dean at a university which understands that you don’t shit on your staff if you want the best from them. This is a lesson that jargon-obsessed Kingston should learn quickly if it wants to remain viable. All this of course was the previous VC’s idea, a pernicious little man who thought he could bully the staff up the league tables. It seems too much to hope but perhaps our interim VC will appreciate how destructive the AP charade has been and abandon the whole shabby business. But it is not very likely.

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