Letter from students in the University of Liverpool’s Department of Continuing Education
We are students in the University’s department of Continuing Education (21st- Century Women Writers).
The class has agreed unanimously to send a message of support to you – and to let you know that we will not be attending our next (currently Zoom) session, which would have been on one of your strike days, as a gesture of solidarity.
We agree with the aims of your strike action and are appalled that the University is planning to slash teaching and research jobs in the faculty of health and life sciences, with world-leading academics – including those doing work on Covid treatment – at risk of being made redundant. In particular we note the information in your strike bulletin: https://www.psychliverpool.co.uk/liverpool-life/events/to-our-students-why-we-strike/
This message is being copied to the University Vice-Chancellor and to our families and friends to alert them to what is happening.
Good luck and best wishes,
Steve Benson; Roslin Hamer; Shirley Jones; Anne Maguire; Susan Putt; Margaret Reid; Gail Riminton; Jackie Sale; Linda Stocks; Ruth Stott; Patricia Taylor; Lynda Wainwiright; Eileen Walsh and Gill Wright
Results of student survey
Below are the results of a survery that was designed by undergraduate students in the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences and has been completed by undergraduate and Master students from the University of Liverpool. The survey currently has >850 respondents.
Comment by an undergraduate student
This is a devastating thing to see for all students, like myself, currently studying in UoL’s Department of Health and Life Sciences. What is the message we receive from this act in regards to our possible futures in research? That hard-working dedicated people can be unjustly disposed of? That the institution meant for learning and research is now only a numbers game? It is deeply humiliating and disappointing to dehumanise researchers and measure their contributions against each other’s. And what about teaching contribution? There are around 33,000 students in UoL who are a direct income to the University. Thus, how can the teaching contribution even be left out of the contribution? We pay so that we could be taught by amazing researchers who are valued and do not have to fear for their job safety. We do not pay, however, so that the head and management of the University could increase their pay checks every year while treating our lecturers in the most disgraceful of ways. I, like most of my peers, am deeply saddened.
Letters written by PhD students
PhD student comment:
The Tragic News of the Redundancy of 47 Scientists:
It is devastating to hear the tragic news of the redundancy of 47 scientists. Both of my supervisors are included in the list. This decision is negatively affecting not only the careers of 47 scientists but the studies of PGR students. I do not fully understand the reason behind this decision, however, it is majorly interrupting my PhD studies that could potentially change my research scheme. The reason I chose this university, and specifically this project, is because my supervisors have high experience in this field. In addition to the qualifications and the published papers that my supervisors have that significantly influenced the understanding of tumorigenesis.
The redundancy decision had a catastrophic impact on me both mentally and academically. This decision is going to result in a drastic change in my studies and losing that expertise and guidance from my supervisors will negatively influence my project scheme. Also, it takes time to establish a relationship between a student and a supervisor; this is important in PhD studies whereas the integrity of the relationship have a major effect in the progress of the project. I am so disappointed and saddened by the redundancy and I hope the decision would be reversed.
Letter from a group of PhD studens:
Could @LivUni listen to the voice of students? We are very concerned about the proposed redundancies in @livuniHLS as this decision will have a major negative impact on our studies
We, a group of XXXX PhD students working on neuroimaging are writing this letter in response to the recent news of the redundancy of our primary supervisor Academic 47.1. We believe this decision will have a major negative impact on our studies.
When we applied to study at the University of Liverpool, each one of us mentioned Academic 47.1’s name on the admission application and he was the main reason for us to choose this University. That is because of his experience in “functional and structural neuroimaging of learning and rehabilitation” and, as far as we know, he is the only expert person in this area at the University.
During our studies, Academic 47.1’s supervision is the fundamental power behind our research. We see him on a daily basis and he has clear impressions on our work. For some of us, he is actually standing for almost 95% of the whole supervisory team load, as our secondary supervisors are not fully familiar with our topics. By dint of this support, two of our colleagues have finished their PhDs in the last 6 months, two have submitted their thesis and are waiting for viva, one student is in the final stage of writing up, two are in the data collection stage and one student just started one week ago. In addition, a number of applicants are willing to join the team soon. Each one of us has their own particular concerns according to their academic stage; willingness of external examiners to engage, potential corrections and the significant data collection delays due to covid-19. Honestly, we are disappointed by the University to take this step and leave us alone at this time.
Academic 47.1 is well known in the fMRI community in XXXXXXX. Our funding bodies encourage us to conduct PhD studies with him. We are not sure how they will react if we are forced to change our supervisor to another one less familiar, or likely unfamiliar with our area of research and research methods.
In writing this letter, we hope the University will listen to our voice and understand out position, especially during this hard time of the pandemic. We believe the University of Liverpool is always caring for both staff and students. We expect the University to solve this issue soon and address our particular serious concerns.
XXXX, XXXX, XXXX, XXXX, XXXX, XXXX
Comment from a PhD student:
This is really awful news.
I’ve seen the emails that have been going around for the last week or so, but somewhat naively assumed that nobody I knew would be affected. It’s unbelievable that the University would try to do this to staff, and doing it at a time of national crisis when mental health is particularly fragile nationwide is just plain insensitive and tone deaf.
Obviously I’m very worried about the effect this might have on my PhD, as I’m sure plenty of others are too. As you know, I’m in a stressful situation at the moment what with undergoing medical treatment, having recently lost my job, and still suffering with severe back pain and I can’t think that losing my PhD supervisor would help with that stress. Is there anything as PhD students we could do to support staff, such as start a petition or speak to our student union rep possibly?’
Comment from a PhD student:
To whom it may concern,
I received the terrible news that my three supervisors are being put at risk of redundancy, and I want to express my concern about this situation. Not only am I worried that my PhD studies will be significantly affected, a factor that has contributed to worsen my stress during my third year of a PhD in middle of the pandemic, but also, I am very concerned about the injustice that these wonderful people are going through.
My three supervisors are amongst the people that I admire the most, not only professionally, but personally. They have contributed so much to my research and to my personal life; they have supported me through very difficult times and have given me guidance and motivation throughout my PhD. They have brilliant minds and I admire so much their experience and contributions to science.
Additionally, I am a witness of the contribution they make to the University, sharing their knowledge and experience through multiple courses and lectures to students not only of Health and Life Sciences, but also from the School of Medicine.
I ask the University to reconsider their decision. I truly believe that my supervisors are very valuable members to this institution and losing them would meaningfully affect the student experience of countless students of Health and Life Sciences and the School of Medicine.
Email exchange between a 3rd year PhD student and Prof Louise Kenny, Executive Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences (FHLS)
Sent: 25 February 2021 13:29
Subject: RE: Project SHAPE update
Dear Professor Kenny,
I am writing to you about my deep concerns with the proposed redundancies within the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences.
I am a third year PhD student and I am directly impacted by this round of Project SHAPE, your plan involves making my primary supervisor redundant. He is responsible for 90% of my supervision. I assume you have been through the PhD process, so you are aware of how stressful it is and how important the right supervisor and project are.
I cannot begin to articulate how stressful trying to complete a PhD during a pandemic has been, but with the support of my supervisor I am just about managing. I have spent the last eleven months working from home and shielding. I find it truly unbelievable that the Faculty would be so callous as to subject the staff and students to this additional level of stress. Where is the care for our wellbeing?
In your recent email you stated to have ‘communicated separately with students to reassure them about the continuity of teaching and supervision’. I have not read anything in any communications that has allayed any of my fears or concerns. The communication to the HLS PGRs informed us that a taskforce was being put together to support affected students, knowing the huge impact the proposed redundancies would have on PGRs why is this initiative only just taking place? When I have asked questions, I am given vague platitudes but no direct answers. It appears the students in the HLS faculty are an afterthought and not ‘at the heart of everything you do’.
I would hope that as the Executive Pro-Vice-Chancellor of my Faculty you are in a position to answer my questions.
My main concern is about my ability to finish my PhD if my supervisor is made redundant. There are a handful of people in the world with my primary supervisors’ level of expertise in XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX and none of them are currently at the University of Liverpool. How do you propose to maintain supervision at this level? I would hope that if you are proposing to make primary PhD supervisors redundant, to maintain continuity for the students, you already know who potential replacements are? Do you have a list of possible candidates?
By making my primary supervisor redundant the University would not be delivering the PhD I applied for or supplying the level of supervision agreed to when I accepted my place. I applied for this PhD to specifically work with my supervisor and on the project he created. My offer letter states that by accepting the offer of a place with any university you enter into a contract, does the Faculty not have some responsibility to deliver what was offered?
On a personal note, I have always been very proud of my home University, I believe the proposed redundancies will have a major impact on our reputation locally and internationally. I find it quite insulting that ‘tackling the extreme health inequalities and unmet health needs in the Liverpool city region’ keeps being used as justification for the deplorable action of making 47 members of valued staff redundant. The major sources of health inequalities in Liverpool are poverty, education and housing, how can restructuring HLS possibly impact these issues?
Thank you for taking the time to address my concerns. I look forward to your response in due course.
From: EPVC HLS <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 12/03/2021 14:22 (GMT+00:00)
Subject: Re: Project SHAPE update
Many thanks for your email about the proposed redundancies in the University’s Faculty of Health and Life Sciences (HLS). We are getting in touch to give you some more information about the proposal.
The project to restructure the HLS Faculty has been carefully considered over an 18-month period, involving comprehensive engagement with colleagues. The primary aim of this exercise is to focus on increasing academic quality and the societal impact of the Faculty’s research and expertise, which requires significant investment.
You will recall that a new Faculty structure was introduced last year, which centres around four newly configured Institutes: Life Course and Medical Sciences; Infection, Veterinary and Ecological Sciences; Population Health; and Systems, Molecular and Integrative Biology. The Institutes are supported by four new enabling directorates designed to operate across the Faculty, covering research and impact, clinical, education, and infrastructure and environment.
Following a pause necessitated by the pandemic, we are now in the second and final phase of the project. We are currently engaged in the formal process of collective consultation with trade unions about the proposed redundancies. The collective consultation process is intended to identify opportunities to mitigate and reduce the impact of these proposals, where possible.
This is a period of significant change for the Faculty and we are focused on ensuring that any disruption to students is kept to a minimum. Professor Callum Youngson, Associate Pro-Vice Chancellor for Education, and Professor Chris Sanderson, Postgraduate Dean, are leading a task force aimed at ensuring that there is continuity of teaching and supervision for any students directly affected.
We will be in contact as we know more and can inform you as to how new arrangements will proceed, this will likely once the consultation process has ended.
We would like to stress that we do not make proposals of redundancies lightly, and we are working hard to limit the impact that the proposals will have upon our students and staff.
Professor Louise Kenny
Executive Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences
Letters written by undergrad students
To whom it may concern,
A member of staff at the University has recently alerted me to the fact that my tutor, XXXX has been put at risk of redundancy, amongst other Life Science staff members. I would therefore like to make a statement on behalf of myself and my peers, explaining why we believe this would be an unwise decision for the University to make. We are outraged by the 47 redundancies occurring in the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences and have expressed this to the Student’s Union: it is clear that the quality of teaching will be compromised if staff are being made redundant, but the number of students is remaining the same. However, at this time, we would like to make a specific case for Dr XXXX, whom we believe should, without a doubt, be kept in his job role.
Knowing how integral XXXX has been to our learning throughout our degree makes it very hard for us to understand why the University would believe that they could give future students the same support and standard of teaching without him. As a XXXX student now in my master’s year, XXXX has taught a large proportion of my lectures, all of which were very well-taught and an essential component of the course. We cannot see how the XXXX course could even exist without XXXX and would not wish further cohorts to have to undertake it without him.
XXXX is also my academic advisor, and my tutor group feel very lucky that we have had a tutor that has supported us so well throughout our degree. He has helped us to develop into confident, young scientists through his advice and encouragement and has also supported us extremely well from a pastoral standpoint. For example, during the first COVID-19 lockdown, he would video call our group every two weeks to ensure that we were coping mentally and help calm any stresses we may have had about the change to online teaching. I do not know of any other academic advisor who thought to do this, demonstrating how he goes above and beyond for the welfare of his students.
If this redundancy were to go ahead, the School of Life Sciences would lose an individual that we believe is one of their most valuable members of staff. We therefore implore the University to reconsider this decision.
Thank you and best wishes,
On behalf of: XXXX, XXXX, XXXX, XXXX, XXXX, XXXX, XXXX, XXXX, XXXX, XXXX, XXXX, XXXX, XXXX, XXXX, XXXX, XXXX, XXXX, XXXX
To whom it may concern,
I have been made aware that Dr XXXX has been put at risk of redundancy amongst other Life Sciences staff. I understand that my peers have put forward a letter in support of XXXX however I felt I should write my own letter regarding this matter, as XXXX has had a profound impact on my academic and personal experience at the university.
As a XXXX student now in my third year, I have witnessed how vital XXXX is to the teaching, structure, and organisation of the XXXX course. He has taught many of my lectures in each year of the course, all to an excellent standard. The transition to online teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging, and a lot to adapt to for students. XXXX consistently provides excellent resources and lectures online with aplomb. He ensures students fully understand material and this has hugely reduced my stress as a third year during these unprecedented times.
XXXX is my Academic Advisor, and he has always put immense effort into ensuring all of his students are wholly supported and encouraged both academically and personally. From a personal standpoint, when my mum was diagnosed with cancer in my first year of university and sadly passed away in my second year, XXXX was there for me and went above and beyond his role as lecturer and Academic Advisor. Throughout this incredibly difficult time, XXXX showed compassion while continuously caring for my academic development and I honestly do not think I would be graduating if it were not for XXXX and his support.
If XXXX is made redundant, I believe the university would lose a truly vital member of the School of Life Sciences, he is integral to the XXXX course and as an academic advisor to many students. I ask the university to please reconsider.
With kind regards,
Dear Professors Beer, Baylis, Kenny and Speed,
We are writing with regards to the current planned 47 redundancies in the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences that were announced in January. We understand that these redundancies are based on grant income and citations, but not on the quality or quantity of teaching. We would like to ask the following questions:
Why are you threatening to remove highly qualified staff that provide the higher quality lecture material, when we are still paying our fees?
Why are you threatening jobs that will simultaneously threaten the calibre of our education, and the education of future students?
Where are our tuition fees going if not to pay the wages of the people teaching us?
What reasoning do you have for making job cuts, when you are still receiving public money, when so many other corporations are doing their best to support their staff in these difficult times – they have much less income?
Is it justifiably fair to abandon your loyal staff during a pandemic, and is it equally justifiable to expect the government to support more unemployed people, given how you are still in receipt of tuition fees and other incomes?
These are all questions that we want to put forward in order to understand how you can consider these redundancies as rational or justifiable in these dark times. We see the redundancies as illogical, given how we are continuing to pay our fees despite the lowering of the level of education we are receiving. If you want to run the university like a business, then you need to recognise that removing the better lecturers will result in lower content standards and consequently lower performance for the students and the university. Failing to include teaching quality and quantity in your judgment of staff seems unconscionable.
We look forward to hearing your response.
XXXX, XXXX, XXXX, XXXX, XXXX, XXXX, XXXX and XXXX
Short comments from Students
“It is disappointing to see these redundancies and I think in the long run they will harm the University. Einstein is quoted as saying “Many of the things you can count, don’t count. Many of the things you can’t count, really count.” Money is easy to measure but the value people add to an institution has no accurate instrument. You don’t know that value until they are gone, and the money follows them.“
“Genuinely shocked that Academic 47.1 is one of the lecturers being made redundant as I have found his brain and behaviour module so engaging and insightful especially as we have covered quite complex neuroimaging techniques and research. He always makes it accessible for students!!”
“I can’t believe this. Academic 47.1 is an amazing lecturer who goes above and beyond for us and actually listens to us in Brain and Behaviour -and is very helpful to us to learn complex material. Cannot understand why he is being made redundant, especially when he is highly specialised.”
“Extremely shocked by this news. I specifically remember as an undergrad looking forward to my 9am lecture on a Monday because it was with Academic 47.1. He’s incredibly passionate about his work and somehow makes teaching extremely complex topics seem effortless.”
“@LivUni making not only one of the most interesting, passionate and intelligent, but also kindest lecturers I’ve had the luck of being taught by redundant is a huge mistake & is going to have a huge impact on the quality of teaching offered by this university. Shameful.”
“Shocked and appalled that so many incredible lecturers in the psych department at @LivUni are being made redundant. Makes you think about the way academia works.”
“Adding to this, I cannot imagine the disruption, to my work, confidence, support network and mental health, that losing my primary supervisor on these terms and with no warning would cause. For a uni which prides itself for valuing activism and well-being, this does not add up.”
“This is a biased and unnecessarily discriminatory method of making a decision that, during a pandemic especially, is unjust and heartless to begin with. I think that it is becoming more and more difficult for lecturers to provide adequate support for students and they are becoming increasingly overworked themselves with less job security.”
“As an ex UoL student, I’m disgusted to see some much-loved staff members at risk. They made my degree, I wouldn’t be where I am without them.”
“Making 47 T&R staff members redundant based on shady criteria is wrong, especially if it looks like there’s no real financial need. On top of that, taking the decision during a pandemic feels, to put it simply, evil.”
“I believe in equality, diversity and inclusion. I am a PhD student, so at the very beginning of my academic career and this potential action would create an unsupportive and restrictive working environment.”
“The redundancies are discriminatory for women who contribute so much more that the metrics can show”.
“As a Trainee Clinical Psychologist I require the teaching/supervision provided by academic staff to enable me to successfully fulfil the requirements of the doctorate in clinical psychology programme and to develop professional knowledge, skills and competences. I am shocked that the University is able to propose redundancies based on a standardised metric that does not take these (and other necessary and invaluable activities, such as EDI [equality, diversity and inclusion] work) into account. The redundancies don’t seem to have taken into account the extra work undertaken, particularly by minority women, in terms of diversity. Furthermore, some roles have intensive personal tutor responsibilities which don’t seem to have been taken into consideration”.
“XXXX is far more than just a researcher, she is a fantastic supervisor and teacher. The DClinPsychol course is small in terms of university courses and I think taking away her role will leave us with a gap which would need to be filled by hiring someone new in my view to run this properly, especially since the Government has started to fund more places to deal with the current mental health crisis. We need that teaching and I feel like the course team all have very different skills and expertise. I don’t see how that’s going to work and it doesn’t seem fair to ignore the other very important parts of XXXX’s job role.”
“XXXX is an amazing support to students and has a lot of time and patience. She also has a lot of knowledge about stats and research. She has given us some teaching that I feel other years will miss out on if she leaves, such as how to use certain stats software that I had never seen or been made aware of before and which are free and helpful. I also feel she is really good with literature reviews and has been a great help with me personally on that matter. Also if we plan on trying to widen participation of students from minority backgrounds, how can the course be run with no staff from minority backgrounds, and in fact getting rid of the only minority staff member when they are doing a great job? That’s not fair or right. I am not from a minority background myself but I feel strongly this is an important issue that needs addressing; again, if you get rid of XXXX it seems you would really need to hire someone new to fill that side of her role. As others have said, publications just aren’t a fair way to judge someone’s abilities! Her role definitely doesn’t sound redundant as there will clearly be gaps that won’t be filled if her position goes, and actually, this is an NHS training post and the role comes with a lot of responsibility and it costs a lot to fund us. I don’t think skimping on the quality of our training seems right.”
“This redundancy scheme sets a dangerous precedent for academia. Behaviour from the UoL is exactly why we need feminist citation policies within research. FWCI disproportionately negatively impacts those who are not white men.”
“EDI [equality, diversity and inclusion] is not an also ran but core to the student offer and the ethos of higher education.”
“My supervisor is the most wonderful teacher and mentor I have ever had the pleasure to work with, his enthusiasm is infectious and I cant believe that the Faculty are trying to get rid of him. The proposal to make him redundant does a huge disservice to the University and to the students that will not benefit from his knowledge and support.He is the entire reason I am doing a PhD at all. I came to the UoL to study Zoology as an undergrad and he was my academic advisor. After a few years in industry I came back to do an MRes and PhD with him, he is a very supportive and encouraging supervisor, a leader in his field and I don’t know how I will finish my PhD if they make him redundant.”