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Author Topic: The student number mania and REF  (Read 4532 times)
observer3
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« on: March 18, 2012, 9:10:49 AM »

Since we can't escape this under the new government rules, I am sure that my department is not the only one experiencing a kind of mania over student numbers.

The form this is taking is that heavy policy changes are being imposed from the centre via our head of department. There is no protection of department interests in this formula with regard to pretending to protect research time as well as some space issues (increasing students and staff sounds good unless there is no place, seriously NOwhere, to put them). This is being imposed with more than bad communication; it is actually a bit more like bullying. Rather than have us all work this out together, we are being treated like children. In this context, many of us have been openly looking at some of the job adverts. Because other places are looking to grow as well.

Here is what I don't get: there is a REF as well as the drive to increase student numbers. But there seems to be no interest by management in the fact that the most REFable people are looking elsewhere. Is the REF being swamped by student numbers and these financial considerations elsewhere? Or is this more local to my department?

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wegie
Unemployed & unemployable
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« Reply #1 on: March 19, 2012, 11:01:53 AM »

Somewhere recently, I read something that suggested that unless you were going to end up coming top of the pile in the REF, the amounts to be gained in the humanities and social sciences weren't going to be enough to make gaming the REF worth more than trying to maximise student numbers.

Needless to say, I forgot to bookmark this and now have no idea where I saw it.

So, given that your place scores highly on the AAB criteria, is it possible that somebody in central admin thinks that piling in the warm bodies is more of a financial winner than shooting for a better REF rating?

Of course, your place got where it was on the AAB criteria by being world class at research . . .
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sandgrounder
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« Reply #2 on: March 19, 2012, 5:37:41 PM »

Wegie's analysis certainly seems to be in line with current faculty / university thinking where I am. The message is very clear we can easily recruit in humanities and social sciences at AAB level, so that's a much better bet than the REF to keep us financially secure. When you look at the figures, it is a no-brainer. It's coming straight from the top with HoDs being told to deliver by yesterday and not to argue. We're also being told loud and clear that any thoughts of levering promotion, teaching reductions etc by waving a job offer from elsewhere can be forgotten, however brilliantly REFable you are. They would of course like excellent REF outcomes as well as rewritten undergraduate curricula, massively increasing teaching loads for next year, and compliance with a whole swathe of 2012 guarantees. And sadly unlike you we are going to be teaching all these extra students minus any new staff...so actually I'd quite like to be in your shoes. But I don't think the grass is going to be much greener anywhere - if your dept can recruit extra you have to take that hit, if it can't, you worry about your P45.
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observer3
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« Reply #3 on: March 20, 2012, 4:53:29 AM »

Well it is good to get an explanation, even if it isn't great news - thanks!

It would seem that if one is in management, there are two ways to deal with this. One way is to call together the department and explain transparently the pressures and try to work out solutions in which people feel as if they are at least kind of involved or know what is going on.

The other way is to assume the worst of your staff, not give them information (much less all of the information), and pressure each of them in disrespectful and bullying ways to increase their workload, all while completely ignoring any procedures surrounding workload and workload discussions. That makes people want to leave because it is anger-inducing.

The departments that will retain more REFable staff will take the first more transparent means, I would predict. Of course there is the danger that in moving one would end up in another nasty bullying environment just like the first. But if everyone reading this tries to make things a little better hopefully we can get through this disaster without a total destruction of a research culture and people leaving for abroad.
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crumpet
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« Reply #4 on: March 20, 2012, 5:22:17 AM »

My department is most certainly going through this at the moment. We're a top REF department and that's one of the only reasons why we still exist -- we've never brought in enough student numbers. Now, our department is freaking out and overloading us...see my Contemplating Abandonment thread. I just don't think its possible to have a personal life AND be an academic for me in this climate.
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observer3
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Posts: 487


« Reply #5 on: March 20, 2012, 5:33:41 AM »

I looked for it but am a bit slow today - where is your post? Would like to read how this is affecting others....
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britmom
I'm a grant getting
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« Reply #6 on: March 20, 2012, 6:05:24 AM »

Wegie's analysis certainly seems to be in line with current faculty / university thinking where I am. The message is very clear we can easily recruit in humanities and social sciences at AAB level, so that's a much better bet than the REF to keep us financially secure.

This isn't the case where I am, but being in Scotland obviously makes a difference.
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Sometimes the only way to stay sane is to go a little crazy - Girl Interrupted
crumpet
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« Reply #7 on: March 20, 2012, 7:20:42 AM »

I looked for it but am a bit slow today - where is your post? Would like to read how this is affecting others....

http://chronicle.com/forums/index.php/topic,87177.0.html
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