Don and Dusted: Sackademics Face the Chop

Cambridge Dons are up in arms over proposals to make it simpler to sack academics.

dons DoS freedom supervision supervisor

Ever feel like your DOS is unreasonable? Soon that could be enough to have him sacked, under new proposals to make it easier to fire staff.

Leading Cambridge academics are up in arms about the plans, which could see "gross idleness" and “an unreasonable refusal to carry out a reasonable request” made punishable by sacking. 

Previously academics would have to have committed “conduct of an immoral, scandalous or disgraceful nature” before being shown the door.

But dons now fear that refusing to change a class to fit in with the demanding extra-curricular schedules of supervisees coud soon be grounds for dismissal. 

Presently, a don can’t be fired without the democratic agreement of his peers, but these new proposals would allow the University to bypass the Regent House vote and fire academics with impunity.

Academics are concerned the move is financially motivated, and believe this could be a measure designed to cut down on staff costs.

Many are claiming that the step is being taken to make it easier to make widespread redundancies as the recession starts to take its toll on higher education funding.

The credit crisis has dramatically affected University endowments, which fell by over 30% this year. Government spending on higher education could fall by a quarter.

Accounts published last November revealed the Uni’s £19m deficit, and with staff costs accounting for more than half the budget, it is clear why the dons are getting worried.

It's not just Cambridge who are feeling the pinch, with Universities up and down the country having to make cuts.

Spending on higher education staff nationwide has dropped to its lowest proportion since records began 15 years ago.

Seven universities, including Thames Valley and London Metropolitan, are thought to be on the verge of collapse, struggling to cope with the recession.

A group of outraged dons have set up a group to fight for their freedoms.

They have had the right to vote on any dismissals for 500 years, and the University has provided a haven for dissidents and rebels as a result of this.

One of their main concerns is that the measures would make it easier to fire academics who held outspoken views.

A fellow who criticised the government (who largely fund the University) for example, could be quickly ushered out, even if they were backed by colleagues.

Dr Mike Clark, a reader in pathology, said that academics needed to be able to: "espouse views that might not be widely accepted and which could even bring them into conflict with those in positions of authority."

The rebel dons are struggling to prevent the University from stifling their freedom of speech and adopting an Alan Sugar ?'you'?re fired'? culture.

They have also accused the University of trying to conceal the radical reforms in the middle of a vast document, '?squatting in the middle like a knobbly toad?.'

Their campaign is becoming more and more of an embarrassment for the university officials, and was this week splashed across national press. 

They are also blogging online, calling the proposals an '?idiocy'? and warning that '?opposition is mounting rather than fading away?':

The vote will take place this term.