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SEDA  2001

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Subject:

Re: Making completion compulsory

From:

Tim Reuter <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Tim Reuter <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 4 Dec 2001 14:25:07 -0000

Content-Type:

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Perhaps I can introduce a note of sour realism into this discussion, not
being a director of an HE centre but simply an ex-HoD who had until very
recently to face the practical realities of all this on the ground. I
wouldn't see it that way myself but I can think of plenty of colleagues
who would treat what's been said so far as little more than the
backslappings of successful empire-builders, and I'd certainly like to
see a more evidence-based approach to the outcomes of these programmes:
we're introducing them because we expect them to raise standards and
professionalism, but let's check in due course that that has actually
happened rather than assuming aprioristically that it will follow as the
night the day that it must have done.

More specifically, a basic HR and employment legislation point first of
all: if you require successful completion this has two implications:

a. you are changing people's terms and conditions of service. However
annoying you may find the restriction, you may not do this unilaterally,
and where an HE institution has recognised a union for purposes of
collective bargaining what can be changed will be determined by the
nature of the consultation mechanisms in force;

b. as an institution, you are putting yourself in the position where you
may be forced to set in motion a capability dismissal on the say-so of
people who do not have to bear any responsibility for the outcome and
normally have no HR training or qualifications. My memory and experience
don't go back as far as the days when Professor Welch bullied Jim Dixon,
but probationers have needed protection from their seniors far more
recently than that, so we shouldn't want to wish safeguards away too
readily, and this may lie behind institutions' choosing not to _require_
completion.

All this is the product of the sector's having chosen -- uniquely for
any profession I can think of -- to go down an in-house training route.
Generally, employment-related professions, including teaching, expect a
minimum level of qualification as a condition for employment, to be
followed up by further training and development; we don't, and I think
David Baume's distinction between a 'first' and a 'second' profession
evades that point (and raises serious questions about the relationship
between teaching and research). Of course, if we'd pushed for the PhD to
become the entry-level qualification and to include a substantial
teaching-related component that would have solved the problem -- but it
would also have meant pushing the standard term for the PhD up from 3 to
4 funded years, i.e. a 33% cost increase, and no one was prepared to pay
for that. Equally, no one wants to pay for in-house nationally
accredited and interchangeable schemes other than through funding the
providers, which means that at a typical institution with a serious
in-house scheme everyone not doing the scheme finds that their work load
goes up by between 1 and 3%, at a time of still-declining unit of
resource. Even probationers doing the scheme get exploited; locally, we
had established a general convention that probationers initially got
plenty of time and a light load to play themselves in (and often to
complete their PhD/turn it into a book) -- only to find ourselves being
told that we had to ensure that probationers were doing 'enough'
teaching in their first year to satisfy the needs of the local
certificate course.

Last not least: the typically uncosted manner of these schemes'
introduction has done nothing, in my experience, to make not-so-new
staff embrace the need for further development or to foster a
developmental culture: they can very easily and by no means wholly
unreasonably come to see it all as yet another form of taxation on their
efforts, and if you are trying at middle management level to change
attitudes it does not make it any easier to be forced to work in this
kind of context.

Tim Reuter
Department of History
University of Southampton

PS I believe here the question of making both taking the course and its
successful completion a requirement is still being negotiated, though
I'm out of the loop now and hence uncertain of this.

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