Staff cuts will affect teaching says former UCU boss

 

Departed Sheffield University and College Union (UCU) President, Steve Collier, has dismissed the University’s insistence that teaching standards will be maintained in light of the recent staff cuts.

Collier, who worked as a Producer and Educational Designer within Learning and Teaching Services (LeTS) also said that the reduction in staff within professional services will result in remaining members of staff, or even academics, having to work twice as hard to compensate for the shortfall.

He said: “So far the Vice-Chancellor is full of rhetoric about how this will not affect students’ experiences. But I do not see how it cannot.”

Vice-Chancellor Professor Keith Burnett detailed in June that a budget deficit of £25million needed to be bridged by the year 2011/12, with £15million being generated through reducing staffing costs.

Collier claimed that since the failed closure of the Biblical Studies department, the University are anxious not to sack academics over members of staff from professional services.

He said: “The students jump up and they listen. They’re far more scared of you guys.”

Sheffield UCU and Unison, the trade unions which represent lecturers at the University, have taken out a formal grievance against the University of Sheffield. They argue that there has been a lack of consultation on behalf of the University with staff members over the cutbacks.

He has also hit out at the “secretive” handling of the restructuring of the Learning and Teaching Services (LeTS) department and claimed that the University failed to inform staff until July 2009 that a third of LeTS employees would lose their jobs.

LeTS works with academics to develop approaches to teaching and learning, as well as providing students with new educational technology.

He said the job cuts were a “knee-jerk” reaction to the University’s financial troubles.

He claims the job losses were confirmed as new positions at the top of the University hierarchy were created, which he estimates add half a million pounds to the University’s wage bill.

A spokesperson for the University of Sheffield, said: “The Sheffield branches of UCU and Unison expressed formal concerns regarding the review and restructuring of services delivered by LeTS within Academic Services.

 

“In response, the University has held a number of positive and constructive meetings with union officials, and an outline agreement has now been reached which should resolve the matter.

“The review into services provided by LeTS commenced in November 2008 and involved substantial consultation with teaching and support staff. The restructuring of the LeTs team is not expected to result in any redundancies.”

Collier said that the media and production side of LeTS has been particularly affected.

This includes the television studio in which the Union of Students’

He claimed that the cutbacks have been made because of ignorance on the University review panel about the function which LeTS performs.

He said: “The review panel have obviously got the opinion that if someone can press the record button they can make educational programmes. It’s a bit like ‘if you can use a word processor, you can write a novel’.”

Members of LeTS also volunteered during Intro Week 2009 to help allocate Ucards to new students, because the University and the Union of Students did not have enough staff to cover the workload.

Along with many of his colleagues, Collier opted to take early retirement under the Voluntary Severance Scheme (VSS), but argues that he took it because “there would not have been a job anyway”.

Collier said: “They told us we must not tell anyone what was going on. I suspect they were waiting for the VSS people to leave and then they could blame it all on the VSS.

“I do not think there is a single person who has left LeTS on the VSS that would have taken VSS if they had not known that they had no job. Ironically the two people that wanted to leave were not allowed to take it. They have kept them, which is just the craziness of it.”

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