Teesside University has received huge backlash for requiring its professors to “apply” in order to keep their jobs.

The Backlash

Teesside University has received a huge amount of backlash for reportedly requiring its professors to “apply” in order to keep their jobs. Over 750 academics signed an open letter, which condemns the university for their decision.

The letter is set to be published on Times Higher Education magazine on July 20th. In the letter, the academics describe the proposal as “bizarrely thoughtless and ignorant to the annual work cycle in academia.”

The application requires professors to reapply for their title and justify why their research would improve the university’s ranking in the “Research Excellence Framework” of 2021- an evaluation method set by the UK government. According to Union officials, the professors would then be interviewed over the summer until a decision is made regarding their position at the university.

The Letter

“Lecturers, senior lecturers and professors at universities are already submitted to existing annual performance and development reviews,” the letter said. “These plans are different. These plans threaten people’s livelihoods. They do so with minimal warning or discussion, and with a sense of confusion and ambiguity around what the criteria for the new role of professor (research) means in real terms.”

The letter also commented on the timing of the proposal. It says that the announcement was made right before summer, and that professors had to scrap their summer plans for their research and “hurriedly seek union representation in addition to financial and legal advice.”

“With seemingly little warning, the individuals affected by this make-or-break audit are faced with the daunting possibility of unemployment and the task of quickly securing another position in a highly competitive job market,” it said.

The letter said that this new process is “indicative of a more pervasive trend within U.K. higher education institutions to become more lenient in their work force and systematically engender an unnecessary sense of insecurity and precariousness.”

The University’s Comments

The university said that this process is “part of its ambitious new Teesside 2020 strategy to move the university forward.”

“As part of these plans, the university is therefore proposing to bring together a range of disparate roles of staff holding the professorial title and create a new role of professor (research), based around a single, clear and consistent role description,” a university spokesman had said.

“It is also proposed as part of this process to move to a single basic salary for all staff holding these new roles, to reflect the enhanced responsibilities of the new role,” he added.

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