Newcastle University has terminated the contracts of 8 Politics staff members
Uni insists students ‘will not be impacted’
Newcastle University has terminated the temporary contracts of 8 members of its Politics department.
According to the University, this is not due to the impact of COVID-19, but instead that the need for them is over, despite the fact that many of them were supposed to be running or assisting in modules in the forthcoming year.
The Politics department has around 50 members of staff, meaning that there will be a 16% reduction in the number of total staff. This cut comes just four months after university staff went on strike to demand better working conditions, with the focus often on the “casualisation” of their work and the prevalence of these temporary contracts.
Students were originally supposed to choose their modules for the coming year back in early May, but were later told that registration for modules would instead occur later in the year once the University felt they could “meet the same high standards that (they) usually set”. A member of staff whose contract was being terminated told The Newcastle Tab that the University had informed him that 25% of this year’s modules would not be available next year.
The redundancies represent part of national trend, with many universities across the country cutting staff and modules alike. Campaign groups, such as #CoronaContract, have been established to secure the future employment of casually employed staff during the crisis.
Psst… Students, if you’re still deciding whether to accept university offers, you should ask them how many modules are being cut and how many lecturers are being fired. https://t.co/HGUoeCPr64
— #CoronaContract (@CoronaContract) June 9, 2020
One of the members of staff being terminated told The Newcastle Tab that the Politics department has been working especially hard recently to “ensure that students received the best education and support possible in challenging circumstances” during the COVID-19 pandemic and that, “instead of a heartfelt thank you from the University, we received redundancy notices. We deserve better than that.” He added that the support they’ve received from colleagues and students “has been greatly appreciated and has meant the world to us”.
Second-year politics student Maya Randell was emailing a module leader to thank him for his help over the term and he, in his response, informed her that his contract, along with those of other members of staff, was being cut short. In solidarity, Randell elected to organise an email to the Vice-Chancellor of Newcastle University and Head of Politics from her cohort, which currently has 70 signatures of fellow Politics students. There has been an outcry of sadness and affection for those being terminated.
Maya told The Newcastle Tab that she felt the need to act due to the “profound impact on my own and my peers’ studies” that the terminated staff have had, having not only educated her, but inspired her. She added that “the fact that the University has emphasised this decision was made irrespective of the pandemic is even more of an insult to the staff’s exceptional teaching”. Randell feels that these terminations do a “disservice to students, full-time staff and the precarious staff being left without a job in an already uncertain, financially challenging time”.
Newcastle University cutting politics department staff on temporary contacts… and not telling their students. Lecturers that have been crucial to students learning so far and would have been fundamental to the teaching of modules in the coming year. Horrible.
— Olivia (@OliviaEthering1) June 10, 2020
Professor William Maloney, Head of the School of Geography, Politics and Sociology at Newcastle University, told The Newcastle Tab: “Students will not be impacted as the fixed-term work undertaken by these colleagues was to support teaching while other staff members in Politics were undertaking other activities.
“Those staff members will return to their full teaching roles in the new academic year so our students will not be negatively impacted by these changes. The colleagues on fixed-term contracts were employed to meet a specific need at the time and their roles were always foreseen as fixed-term.
“Our long-standing reputation as one of the leading teaching units in the UK means Politics at Newcastle will continue to provide high-quality teaching and pastoral care to support our student learning community.”
A petition has subsequently been set up by students in favour of reinstating the terminated staff, which is available to sign here.