Students ‘kept in dark’ over restructure

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Sarah Smith

The University’s plans for restructure were passed by the University Court on December 16, despite the fact that many members of staff still have concerns and that many students have still received no information about the plans.

A Guardian poll of 116 students has revealed that 73% are unaware of the plans for restructure, calling into question the University’s claims that the consultation period took into account the views of the entire University community.

Only six of the students who were aware of the restructure had heard about it through the SRC — with the rest having learned about the plans through Guardian or petitions and literature distributed by the Glasgow University Anti-Cuts Action Network (GUACAN). The majority of those questioned said that there had not been enough information distributed to them about the restructure and its effects. One student said it felt like the student body were “being kept in the dark”.

Philip Neal, a third year Politics student, speaking on behalf of the GUACAN, outlined the main issues the organisation wants Glasgow University to address. He said: “[GUACAN] is not fundamentally against restructuring — it’s looking for a release of more information and a lot more consultation. We’re looking for more openness about the process which we feel hasn’t been properly echoed around the student community and the University community in general.”

The Court paper on the restructure states that one of the aims is to introduce “streamlined administrative support”, which has caused concern for some members of University staff. The paper itself states: “some concern has been expressed by administrative and support staff with respect to … uncertainty around their roles”.

A senior lecturer told Guardian: “The group that senior management needs to listen to most attentively is the departmental secretaries … if the secretaries that are used to our existing systems were not happy with the new arrangements then that will be a disaster.”

The lecturer also voiced concerns echoed in the court paper feedback about the way in which the University consulted with its staff and that the way in which the restructure is implemented could result in senior academics leaving the University. “It wasn’t so much a consultation period as it was a period in which it was desired that there would be ratification [of] the proposed changes. I’m not really sure just how serious the consultation process was.

“There might well be some cases where senior staff are looking outside the University at other possibilities. If [the restructure] negatively affects the University in the next research exercise or student survey then I think it may well have an effect on some senior members of the University.”

As a student, have you heard about the plans for restructure?

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The court paper also reveals that, across all current faculties, there are worries from staff that the academic identities of some departments could be compromised or lost altogether under the new school structure.

David Anderson, President of the University and College Union Glasgow (UCUG), said that the union is working with the University to make sure that the concerns of staff are addressed. He said: “We will be seeking to ensure that there are no redundancies resulting from assimilation, that academic units maintain their identity — built over many years in some cases — and that the new structure does not disadvantage any staff member.”

Addressing the feedback from staff regarding the speed of implementation — that the “timescale for change is too rapid” — a spokesperson for the University said: “The new structure will come into place on August 1. The reason for setting this timetable is to allow the new structure and the new University strategy to come into effect at the same time.

“In addition, with this timeframe in place, the period for uncertainty for staff is reduced and we have had many comments from across the University welcoming this fact.

“We believe that the seven week consultation period was sufficient to allow the University community to express their views on the changes and many of these have subsequently been incorporated in the project.”

Student Representatives’ Council (SRC) President Laura Laws said that the SRC was continuing to ensure that students’ opinions are represented throughout the restructure.

“The SRC consulted with student reps from across the university on the Principal’s plans to restructure. Students’ main concern was that they did not know enough about restructuring and how the plans would affect their education. The SRC has made sure that the University will email students in the next week to fill them in about the plans. The University is also developing an information section on the University website.

“The major changes will affect the management structures of the University — this means that most students’ education will not be affected. The SRC are working with the University to ensure that every opportunity is taken to improve the student learning experience and that the existing student support structures at Glasgow University will not be damaged as a result of the restructure.”

An email detailing the restructure was sent to students on February 1, two months after the consultation period ended. No information has yet been posted on the Current Students section of the University website.

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