News & external views

News

Nature editorial 21/07/2021: Responsible research assessment faces the acid test

Leiter Reports: A Philosophy Blog: several articles about the proposed redundancies

Daily Nous 06/07/2021: Liverpool Philosophers Object to Planned Layoffs at University, Call for Support

Liverpool Echo 10/07/2021: Liverpool students fear having to resit entire academic year after ‘failed module’ messages

THES 09/07/05: Liverpool hit with union boycott in escalation of job cuts row

BBC 08/07/2021: University of Liverpool: Marking chaos puts careers at risk, student says

The Telegraph 05/07/2021: University marking strike could stop 1,500 students from graduating

THES 05/07/2021: Exam chaos at Liverpool as 1,500 students left without results

THES 30/06/2021: Liverpool professors accuse institution of ‘devaluing degrees’. Letter to council says there has been a ‘deliberate breach’ of university policies in redundancy dispute

xxx

External comments

If you would like to post a comment please complete this form.

Statement from the Organising Group of the Marx and Philosophy Society

The Organising Group of the Marx and Philosophy Society would like to express its dismay at the highly irregular and indefensible approach that senior management at the University of Liverpool has taken in the application of redundancy criteria to staff in the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences under ‘Project SHAPE’. We are shocked by senior management’s repeated refusal to accede to requests by UCU members for mediation through ACAS, and the extreme and unnecessarily hostile approach that this reflects. We condemn the shockingly disproportionate and punitive approach that senior management has taken to those who have taken legitimate industrial action short of a strike. We call on senior management at Liverpool to revoke their unfounded and indefensible redundancy threats and to treat all staff members with fairness and respect.

xxx

Statement of Support from Minorities and Philosophy UK: Industrial Dispute at The University of Liverpool

Jul 22 Written By MAP UK

Minorities and Philosophy (MAP) UK express our full solidarity with staff members targeted by recent redundancy proposals at the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences at the University of Liverpool and support those undertaking industrial action in response to these redundancy threats.

We condemn the arbitrary and indefensible criteria that senior management at Liverpool University have adopted, as well as senior management’s belligerent, disproportionate and punitive approach to pay deduction for union members participating in Action Short of a Strike (ASOS). We call on senior management at the University of Liverpool to immediately revoke these threats and call on them to respect the dignity of all their employees, to treat them in a fair and collegial manner and as moral equals.

We all need to be aware that, should these redundancies go through, they would set an alarming precedent for future dismissals of employees on intellectually indefensible grounds – and our full support goes to those fighting this fight in the face of the progressing marketization of the Higher Education sector.

We further want to direct to this petition by Liverpool Guild Student Officers 

https://www.liverpoolguild.org/thestudentvoice/ensure-students-are-fairly-assessed-by-ending-the-hls-redundancies and this Open Letter https://www.hls47.co.uk/open-letter/

Solidarity!

On behalf of the MAP UK team

xxxx

Dear Vice Chancellor Janet Beer,

We are writing to you, as representatives of the academic staff and UCU members at the University of Hull.  We are shocked by the appalling way in which you and your management team are dealing with the industrial dispute at Liverpool University.  The planned redundancies are based on arbitrary and indefensible criteria revealing either incompetence or a blatant refusal to properly manage academic resources in consultation with staff and unions.

The staff have responded with integrity and respect for collegiality and given the lack of any meaningful discussions have been driven to take industrial action. The imposition of the most punitive penalties available betrays the indefensibility of the university position.

The university should take immediate steps to resolve this dispute.  It should begin by revoking the redundancy threats and engaging meaningfully with staff representatives.

Hull UCU Committee.

xxx

Subject: Protest against Project SHAPE

Dear Professor Kenny,
I write on behalf of the British Society for the Philosophy of Science to condemn the University of Liverpool’s Project SHAPE. Dismissing academic faculty on such shallow and misconceived criteria runs contrary to everything that a research university should stand for. The BSPS are sorry that the University of Liverpool should hurt its reputation, and undermine its own distinguished staff, in this way. We call on senior management to withdraw the proposals, and to engage with staff to repair the damage.

Yours sincerely,

Robert Northcott

Reader in Philosophy
Birkbeck, University of London
https://robertnorthcott.weebly.com/
Honorary Secretary, British Society for the Philosophy of Science

xxx

Statement of Support re Industrial action at Liverpool University (2021)
Merseyside Committee (Philosophy In Pubs)


We hear with dismay that members of staff at the University of Liverpool, are effectively forced
into taking strike action. This due to senior management’s seemingly arbitrary decision to make 47
members of the teaching staff redundant. As representatives of Liverpool city’s grass roots
community we strongly oppose this decision, not only for the staff themselves, and for the
precedent it sets for future staff, but for the effects this action will have on the educational quality
and ability of our leading university.


We understand that the authoritarian manner employed, surprise tactics, lack of consultation,
spurious use of criteria, all fit a particular type of instrumental reasoning, and an all too prevalent
mode of management in what is fast becoming an education industry. It would appear that this
action and similar actions by our university’s senior management, now, and in the past, have less
and less to do with student’s education, and more to do with the economic imperatives of the
prevailing neo-liberal hegemony.


We strongly urge the senior management to think again, preferably in a more critical and
educationally oriented manner, to this important and pivotal decision regarding our city’s major
university.


Merseyside Committee
www.philosophyinpubs.co.uk

xxx

Birmingham NEU Branch sends a message of solidarity to all UCU members taking strike action at Liverpool University in defence of FHLS jobs. Your courage and determination to fight for what is right has been inspirational and you are absolutely right to be taking strike action in defence of unnecessary job cuts. Congratulations on saving 26 jobs so far. We have no doubt that by staying strong and united you will save the remaining 21 jobs too. We will be with you in spirit on the picket lines!
Wishing you a speedy victory!
In solidarity

David Room, General Secretary, Birmingham National Education Union

xxx

HLS47 includes people I have known for many years, and I consider them to be good former colleagues and friends.  Their important contribution to T & R has been already described by others.  In addition, I know that they have been taking on vital yet unacknowledged (by the senior management) tasks such as Open Days.  I have heard from people, who are not among the 47, that plans for project SHAPE have made the workplace intolerably toxic.

The senior management claim that redundancy of HLS47 is necessary to focus on the needs of local health care.  I totally fail to see how removal of 47 academics will be helpful, and I think I have a better suggestion.  Merseyside has a problem of recruiting and retaining doctors.  I knew many UoL undergraduate students who wanted to pursue a career in medicine.  They worked hard for their first undergraduate degrees whilst obtaining excellent marks in aptitude tests such as UCAT and GAMSAT and widening work experience.  They wished to continue their study at UoL but moved out because they did not get offers from UoL medical school.  Of course, not all students who are being invited for interview will get offer.  That said, almost all Liverpool “rejects” I thought had an excellent chance were offered highly competitive and coveted graduate entry for medicine at universities such as Manchester, Nottingham, Swansea, Kings college, Southampton etc.  They are now far more likely to live and practice in the place they graduate their medical school.  Liverpool’s loss is other place’s gain.  Recruiting highly intelligent and well-motivated UoL undergraduates with local knowledge and local accent seems more effective way to improve the health of Merseyside residents.” Dr. Tomoko Kamishima, Project Assistant Professor The University of Tokyo and alumnus of the University of Liverpool

“The value of an academic career cannot be measured in numbers. No ifs, no buts, it’s simply too diverse for this. It’s measured in new insights obtained, it’s measured in students at all levels that get the bug of research, not for the money that can be made with it, but for slowly but surely moving humankind further along no matter how long it takes and insignificant it might seem. It’s measured in working your ass off day and night because that’s what it takes. It’s measured in being able, as a society, to respond to unexpected crises. This is not even about using metrics the wrong way, there is simply no way research metrics should be used for scoring personal achievements in any way. I’m shocked that an institute with a reputation like the University of Liverpool can sink so low as currently demonstrated. I have given talks here in the past, done PhD and MSc vivas, I will not do so again until this shameful plan is off the table.” XXXX Leiden University Medical Center

“I am very concerned with the increasingly poor treatment of academics by universities in the movement to businify their institution. This includes censoring topics of research, uninviting speakers, failing to provide support and defend researchers who have become subject to the mob, and using draconian and dubious standards to evaluate our colleagues for promotion, tenure, firing, and hiring. For instance, impact factors give the appearance of objective measures but are subject to so many external factors including number of people in a field, saturation of a topic, and more that applying them across even subfields is nearly useless. Similarly, the obsession with grant money moves universities from a place for the pursuit of knowledge to a place of pandering to grant bodies who have social and political agendas. This appears to be happening at Liverpool, despite perfunctory attempts to use insensitive and cherry-picked “objective” metrics. It is almost like universities no longer value us, do not understand the nature of our work, or simply think our work could be done by yet another administrative assistant. So much of what we do is not counted making it easy for our bosses to act like it simply does not exist. I am troubled by what I am seeing at Liverpool. The dismissal of nearly 50 academics on these grounds troubles me and thus, with regret, I would like to decline the invitation to give a guest lecture in the Evolutionary Psychology module in support of staff at risk of redundancy and in protest to those already fired.” XXXX, University of Padova

“I am a senior academic who was threatened with redundancy two years ago. Indeed, I have just finished a Teams meeting about a new wave of redundancies to be made at my own institution. I have read many of the comments made by the 47 listed for redundancy at Liverpool. I empathize deeply with what they are going through, as I remember what happened to me only too well. In my case, the people pursuing me I had actually lectured to years before when they were undergraduates at the same institution.Others I had worked with for the best part of three decades. They turned on me like a pack of dogs. When I was a child in the 1960s, as we drove past the University I remember seeing on the tower ‘Raised by the Men of Liverpool’ and my father telling me that one day I would go to University there. Well, as an under/postgraduate of Liverpool University, I see it has just turned into Ford, or Coca-Cola or BT. I wonder what the ‘Men of Liverpool’ would make of what the University has become.”

“Dear XXXX, In normal circumstances I would be absolutely delighted to visit your group and give a talk, but in protest against the threatened redundancies at your institution I must decline. The planned redundancies are based on inappropriate metrics and are likely to bias against those particularly affected by the current pandemic. It is surprising and disappointing to see such a well-regarded University take action that directly goes against national and global efforts to improve the work culture within Universities.” XXXX, Nottingham Trent University

“Dear XXXX, This development is absolutely revolting, and made further intolerable by the complete lack of transparency in decision-making, evaluation, and outcomes. Liverpool will suffer – who would want to work in such an intolerable, hostile environment with zero morale? Moreover, what students will ever want to study there, with professors who fear such outcomes?” XXXX, St Mary’s University, Canada

Thanks for the update on the abysmal situation at the University of Liverpool. I was to participate as a discussant on a course XXX as an external expert on March 15th 2021. However, I choose to join the front of boycotts to support the call against the planned staff cuts. The planned cuts are disgraceful, unjust, based on highly questionable reasoning, and will deeply damage the international reputation of the University.” XXXX- University of Helsinki

“Some days ago I was informed about the shocking events at the University of Liverpool. I was invited as an external expert for a panel discussion in the course XXX on March 15th 2021. However, due to the planned staff cuts at the University of Liverpool I chose to join the boycott to support the people fighting against those unjust plans. The intended cuts of staff are based on unreliable measures, they are unfair and give a very worrying signal to other researchers and a very bad signal about the state of science to the public. The reputation of the University of Liverpool has already been damaged by this, and by insisting on these unjust procedures this damage will only be increased.” –University of Turku

“The affected staff will have been told that they are meeting PDR target and then the goal posts change, allowing them no opportunity to do anything to change their situation. The timing of this is unimaginably cruel.”HMPPS Forensic Psychologist

“The metrics being used to identify staff for redundancy are not a reliable indicator of an academic’s value or performance. I find it incredulous that this is considered a fair process by a University that states its commitments to EDI” —Assoc Professor, Durham University

“EDI requires Universities to abide by their stated goals in this regard!”–Academic, Durham University

“I used to work in academia and injustices like this are part of the reason why I left.”Research Psychologist

“My academic career was devoted to research and writing in the field of race relations and I contributed to changes in the law in the equality field (both race and gender). I am now working with the Welsh Government on their Race Equality Action Plan and also providing Welsh Government funded training to north Wales teachers in equality, human rights and de-colonising the curriculum. It is especially galling to see my former employer behaving in a way that undermines equality and penalises those who work for it. But the assault on my values and work is trivia; compared with the impact of the policies proposed on valued colleagues.”-Emeritus Professor of Sociology 

“There is clear evidence of poor management of staff welfare here that only enforces a growing schism between research and teaching duties. This damages the broader reputation of universities in general to be equitable places of scholarship and learning. It is a shoddy exemplar of very opaque change management.”Professor of Medical Parasitology, LSTM 

“These changes would harm the reputation of the University of Liverpool. They would lead to the devaluation of important contributions and have a negative impact on the higher education community at large.” –Professor, University of California, San Diego 

“The use of these metrics to decide on redundancy vulnerability is clearly in conflict with the University’s stated EDI goals and practices.”Senior Lecturer, University of Birmingham 

“As someone who has worked on EDI for several years, I’m horrified at the ways your priorities undermine and disregard your university’s EDI goals.”Senior Lecturer, Essex 

“This is a bias and unnecessarily discriminatory method of making a decision that, during a pandemic especially, is unjust and heartless to begin with”.Trainee at University of Manchester 

“This is one of the worst-handled redundancy rounds I’ve have ever witnessed in my 17 years in Higher Education. The use of metrics is absolutely shocking.” –Chair, University of Manchester 

“This is unjust and directly contradicts both Liverpool’s supposed commitment to EDI and their signatory to DORA”Lecturer, University of Plymouth 

“Used to work in academia. This sort of ill treatment of women is exactly why I left.” –Research Psychologist

“Careers in academia are difficult, young researchers often spend years on limited-term contracts, hoping to obtain a permanent position.These years give universities and research institutions the possibility to thouroughly evaluate candidates for faculty positions and finally to chose the person they consider best. Academic careers are based on the idea that permanent positions are permanent, – everyone is aware that some of these people will do better than others. It is shocking that the University of Liverpool no longer feels bound to previous decisions and feels free to proceed to a re-evaluation in the middle of careers, and to fire those who underperform according to some parameter. This is shocking, but it is also very shortsighted: In the future, Liverpool will be lasts choice for young job-seeking researchers, and those who have a position there, will consider looking for more secure conditions elsewhere.” Professor at University of Bordeaux, France

“I am disappointed that the University of Liverpool is not protecting its faculty.” Professor of Psychology and Neural Science, New York University”

“As a graduate of the university of Liverpool and a former member of professional service staff in the faculty of HLS I am very disappointed to see the attempts to make staff redundant. My experiences while a student and also as a staff member involved meeting some incredible people, who work extremely hard to support the development of students alongside substantial research commitments. The covid-19 pandemic has been a very challenging time for everyone, and the damaging narrative in media that universities have been ‘closed’ could not be further from the truth. Despite this context, students have continued to learn and receive support from staff who care deeply about their well-being and academic progress. Solidarity.”

“The views of the academics are heartfelt and show Project Shape to be flawed and to be having a very negative impact”

In these times of national crisis, the country desperately needs the very best clinical psychologists. It is therefore counter-productive to cause such turmoil by threatening staff with redundancy and demoralising those who remain.

The unity and support for the 47 targeted people shown on this site is the very opposite of the arrogance and moral cowardice of UoL’s senior management. How can targeting Research and Teaching Staff for redundancy, “deliver world class, research-connected teaching,”?  The shabby, muddled thinking from UoL’s senior management has caused enormous distress and anxiety for loyal and dedicated people, who personify what is great about UoL. Why announce a redundancy programme at this time?  It is callous and deplorable; or have UoL’s senior management utilized a pandemic as merely a good day to bury bad news?Ex-Liverpool Student

“That is quite shocking to see the University management acting like that. The distinction between universities and companies is getting more blurred. Fat cat management chasing profits rather than striving for educational and research standards.”

“I spent 4 amazing years of my life at the University of Liverpool, guided through an incredible course in the Faculty of Life Sciences by many many remarkable people. Now, as a Liverpool Alumnus, I am utterly disgusted by the news surrounding possible redundancies and makes me ashamed that I gave so much money in fees to what is now showing to be a greedy institution. The staff at Liverpool are what inspire students, and are the people that allowed me to reach the stage I am in my life now. Throughout my own degree, my lectures were disrupted by continuous strikes over lecturer pensions and working environments, something the University never seemed too guilty about even though it caused huge disruptions to learning (for a very worthy cause, I will add). These events have the same feelings surrounding them and I am sure that current students will be feeling very similar to how I was feeling back when the strikes were happening. The university must do better, especially considering it has been receiving student fees during the pandemic.” Ex-Liverpool Student