University “has badly under-estimated” the impact of staff changes on students

By Jack Taylor &

A senior member of the University administration has expressed concerns to Palatinate over the planned changes to departments administrative staff.

Set to be in place for the 2019/20 academic year, the proposed changes will affect adminstrative staff across all faculties with the aim to establish a more “equitable level of administration” within the University.

The University told Palatinate that these proposals are aimed at improving the administrative and business processes within departments to ensure they are operating at their optimum.

When asked what benefit students would experience from these proposals, part of Phase 2 of the Faculty and Department Review, Professor Antony Long, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost, said: “Our professional services staff are key to the delivery of teaching and research activities. Although students may not have regular contact with these staff, making our ways of working more efficient will be to the ultimate benefit of students.”

“To claim that students will benefit or that their learning experience will be enhanced by cutting back front-line staff who support them is nonsense.”

The senior member of the University administration, speaking exclusively to Palatinate, has warned otherwise: “the University has badly under-estimated the impact of Phase 2 on students; to claim that students will benefit or that their learning experience will be enhance by cutting back front-line staff who support them is nonsense.”

There is concern amongst members of academic staff about their ability to continue providing teaching and conducting research to their current level.

An Assistant Professor within the Philosophy Department told Palatinate that already a large number of administrative duties are having to be performed by faculty, such as conference and speaker organisation.

They said: “It’s time that is taken away from both my teaching and supervision obligations, as well as my own research. The department is already understaffed.”

The Assistant Professor commented that their department has already suffered negatively from administrative restructuring and the loss of valuable staff over the past year.

They have noticed a shift in the flow of information, due to a loss of institutional and administrative staff: “I used to go to the admin staff to get my practical questions answered, and now I often have admin staff coming to me to get practical questions answered.”

The same Assistant Professor also raised concerns about the level of students coming to staff with mental health issues whilst administrative requirements are increasing.

“Two weeks ago I had an afternoon blocked out specifically for research purposes, to work on an overdue paper. Instead, I ended up meeting with two students, an hour a piece, to walk them through their options for May/August exams and filling out SAC forms (forms for students facing serious adverse cicumstances).

“I will prioritise that sort of work over pretty much everything else”

“I will prioritise that sort of work over pretty much everything else, and do not begrudge the time my students at all, but that sort of work is exceptionally draining and after the meetings were over I got very little of ‘my’ work done.”

Professor Antony Long told Palatinate: “Alongside the Review, we have identified a significant number of opportunities to modernise, streamline and improve support for students and their well-being through Faculty and departmental processes. For example, this will include the way we deal with concessions and Academic Progress Notices (APNs).

“Over the next 18 months, through a sequence of projects, we hope to progress these changes. Further information will be available in the coming weeks.

“We have met with DSU representatives and shared the proposals for Phase 2 of the Review, inviting them to play an integral part in shaping the final proposal. We will also be meeting with Faculty Reps shortly to seek their views on the proposals.”

Featured Image by International Office, Durham University via Flickr

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