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King’s updates at-risk staff via external forum

Use of comments section of THE’s website to apprise staff of revised redundancy plans defended

Students outside King's College London

King’s College London has defended its decision to update staff on its restructuring plans via Times Higher Education’s comments board.

In response to a series of critical posts over its original plans to cut up to 120 jobs from three health schools, King’s announced on 3 July that the number of at-risk positions had been halved to just 60.

In a comment posted under an opinion article on the King’s plans, a university spokesman explained that 60 roles represent “less than 3.2 per cent of our academic workforce” and that King’s would have “25 per cent spare capacity in our teaching capability across the three schools” once the restructuring was complete.

He also admonished the university’s critics, saying that it was “a matter of regret that some of our own community have chosen to be publicly critical of the current restructuring process before engaging directly with senior management”.

But several academics affected by the redundancy consultation hit out at the manner of the announcement.

Mitul Mehta, a senior lecturer based at the Institute of Psychiatry, said that it was “remarkable that the changes in the numbers under threat of redundancy are announced…in the comments section of an opinion article”.

“Going external with crucial information without first informing staff is behaviour that staff and students are themselves being accused of,” Dr Mehta said.

However, King’s argued that it considered it crucial to respond to staff concerns quickly after concluding a review of its plans.

“We felt that it was important to update readers of the THE opinion piece with the current situation as soon as possible,” a spokeswoman said.

“We are offering individuals still provisionally at risk support and guidance on next steps, and will be providing staff in the three health schools with more information at the forthcoming staff briefing sessions,” she added.

She went on to say that King’s had “started the process of updating unions, staff and the students’ union on Thursday last week [3 July] on the outcome of the final panel considerations”, which had led to the halving of the number of at-risk positions.

The THE post came the same day the University and College Union branch at King’s announced that it would hold a one-day strike on 10 July as Princess Anne visited the institution to open a new neuroscience building.

UCU regional official Barry Jones seemed unaware that the number of posts at risk had been altered at the time of that announcement, saying: “Sacking 120 staff will do absolutely nothing positive for King’s College’s academic reputation.”

jack.grove@tsleducation.com

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Readers' comments (2)

  • I am a Professor at Kings College London (Institute of Psychiatry). I remain very concerned by this process:
    1. There was no consultation with the senior heads of departments (world renowned researchers leading multidisciplinary research departments and their departments effected directly by these damaging cuts) in advance of the announcement of redundancies.
    2. There have been recent changes to the numbers at threat of losing their jobs and the first anyone knew of this was via TEA, showing complete disrespect for even the most senior academics directly involved in this process.
    3. Senior academic staff - whether on the at risk list or not - are talking openly about their future and considering whether to stay at KCL. It is inevitable that some will jump ship when opportunities come their way in the next few years.
    4. KCL has lost their trust and respect so that the goodwill, partnership and comradery that are essential components of successful Universities have been strongly undermined.
    5. There is now considerable concern for the future. KCL will next turn their attention to redundancies for critical administrative staff - that are essential components of the research teams at KCL. Academics that remain will be increasingly required to cover for administrative tasks as well as additional teaching load - reducing the amount, quality and impact of research, as well as the quality of teaching.
    6. PhD students have been forgotten in this process because teaching post-graduate students did not appear as part of the metric for teaching, even though PhD student’s fees are paid to the University and PhD students form an essential backbone for successful research both now and in the future.
    7. Research seems to be the lowest priority, which is a concern for the future of UK science and health service advances, which has lead the way internationally for so many years.
    Unfortunately, KCL management have not consulted in any meaningful way with staff who do this work and are dedicated and hardworking – most of whom already work 12 hour days or more with many additional hours work for which they are not paid and do not complain. It is the hard work of these people, including those still at threat, on which the reputation of KCL has been built – but which is now being damaged by this process. Frustration reigns because there is no mechanism in place by which these decisions can be scrutinised or discussed or reversed. It is not clear that these cuts are essential and alternatives have not been openly considered. There is no system in place to make senior management accountable for the impact of their actions. The responses so far to the very real concerns expressed by so many students and staff from both within and outside of KCL (including all heads of department, several knights of the realm, the future president of the Royal College of Psychiatry, national and international leaders in research and many others) is wholly inadequate. KCL senior management have to stop, listen and change direction before the damage to KCLs reputation and the future wealth and wellbeing of the university (and the fields of research and advances in clinical services they support) is beyond repair.

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  • Fanis Missirlis

    By introducing a consultation via the comment pages of Times Higher Education, KCL management ensures some level of understanding to outside observers. Your seven points require equally explicit answers. I hope the anonymouse KCL spokesman will soon reply below.

    By various perspectives, it is ridiculous, tragic, pitiful that academics should be afraid to lose their jobs for speaking out: and yet this fear to state one's informed opinion is a serious issue at this time, at least in the UK. Other stories in this issue of the Times Higher Education should help reverse the tide.

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