‘Open Day’ of Action against Course Closures and Staff Reductions

The save the IAA campaign is calling for students and staff across the university to take action on the university open day on Saturday the 24th November.  We are calling an organising meeting on Thursday the 22nd of November, at 5pm in the Guild Council Chambers; to discuss co-ordination for this. We hope that as many staff and students as possible- especially those at most risk from course closures- attend.

What is happening at this university is a systematic process of hampering, reviewing and then substantially restructuring or removing the course they don’t like. In the last three years Sociology, Biological Recording, English Language and Literature in Education, Cultural Studies, Archaeology and Antiquity, Nursing, Physiotherapy, Religious Studies and Theology have all been- or are at risk of being- substantially restructured or closed altogether.

However this process does not just affect these departments.  Across all departments we have seen a systematic process of review and a reduction of money the university spends on its core function of educating students and research.

The university cannot attack staff and students in the way it has done without expecting to face the consequence of their actions.

We call on the university to immediately halt course closures and compulsory redundancies and pledge not to make any more for the next three years.  

If the university is to progress and get better it can only be by working together with both staff and students, not in total opposition to them. The proposal is not unrealistic it has happened at other universities, notably Glasgow.

The plan for the of action we are going to take will be decided at the meeting but the provisional plan is to leaflet prospective students telling them what is going on at the university in the morning; having a rally in the early afternoon, and then continue to leaflet till the end of the day. Please attend the organizing meeting and come for the leafleting and protest on the 24th”

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Review of information about the IAA

Apologies for the lack of posting in the last few months, this blog is an attempt to draw together all the information about the closure and the campaign against it from elsewhere on the web.

General Information

Leaked IAA closure papers: http://www.defendeducationbrum.org/leaked-iaa-closure-papers/

UCU blog:

http://birminghamucu.org/2012/11/01/the-iaa-closure-our-key-objections/

http://birminghamucu.org/2012/10/04/blackout-at-birmingham-an-update-from-classics-and-ancient-history/

http://birminghamucu.org/2012/10/08/staff-aggrieved-as-university-of-birmingham-leaves-archaeology-in-ruins/

http://birminghamucu.org/2012/09/28/the-university-of-birmingham-throws-in-the-trowel-as-college-buries-archaeology/,

From the Guild: http://guildofstudentsvpe.wordpress.com/2012/10/04/some-initial-thoughts-on-the-iaa-closure/

From Classicist Edith Hall: http://edithorial.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/betrayal-in-birmingham.html

Petition with over 1600 signatures http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/save-the-iaa/

Current Archeology:

Save the IAA Protest

Birmingham Mail: http://www.birminghammail.net/news/local-news/university-of-birmingham-archaeology-centre-closure-227043

UCU: http://birminghamucu.org/2012/10/17/save-the-iaa-a-dig-for-truth/

UCU Strike Ballot

http://birminghamucu.org/2012/11/01/ucu-strike-ballot-our-demands/

http://birminghamucu.org/2012/11/01/ucu-strike-ballot-our-means/

University Misinformation

http://birminghamucu.org/2012/07/31/dazed-and-confused-professor-eastwood-praises-flagship-iaa-projects-whilst-college-of-arts-and-law-put-the-same-staff-at-threat-of-redundancy/

University’s Position

http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/schools/iaa/news/2012/review-iaa.aspx

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Stonehenge!

With the cuts and restructuring that is facing the IAA we believe that this is the perfect time to celebrate the unique approach which the institute offers. We should be making an extra effort to highlight the important achievements of the IAA in education and research and we would be delighted if you would join us. This year the people from and friends of the IAA will be once again visiting the ancient site and one of Britain’s most iconic landmarks; Stonehenge.

On Saturday 18th August at midday we shall be meeting at the Cursus Ridge Barrows, Stonehenge, which has been investigated as part of our recent ‘Stonehenge Hidden Landscape’. From here our specialists will be giving guided tours of the Stonehenge wider landscape.

Everyone is welcome to join us for what promises to be an exciting afternoon of celebration and reflection on the past whilst anticipating what the future of archaeological and historical research and education have to offer.

Facebook Event

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University of Birmingham to close award-winning archaeology institute – UCU

This is yet another UCU article which I am cross posting to this site. If anyone wants to write an article about the IAA and the closures then please get in touch and we would love to post it here. 

The original article can be found at: http://www.ucu.org.uk/index.cfm?articleid=6161

The University of Birmingham has announced plans to axe its award-winning Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity (IAA), with the loss of 19 jobs.

The internationally renowned department has played a leading role in recent discoveries at Stonehenge, including the groundbreaking find of ancient ritual pits which suggest that the Stonehenge site was used as a place for sun worship before the stones were erected.
 
UCU said the institute’s closure would have a devastating impact on the UK’s archaeology provision.
 
The union said it was angry that staff affected by the closure had not been given any proper explanation of why the institute was being axed, despite raising the issue with management on several occasions.
 
In 2007 the institute was awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education for its use of technology to create detailed maps of the former Roman town of Wroxeter.
 
Staff from the institute also helped excavate the Staffordshire Gold Hoard, the largest hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold ever found, ensuring that the ancient gold was extracted safely from the ground where it was discovered.
 
Academics from the institute have helped carry out excavations outside Shakespeare’s final home as part of the Dig for Shakespeare project, which is looking to increase understanding of how the Bard spent his last years.
 
UCU regional official, Martin Machon, said: ‘The University of Birmingham’s Institute for Archaeology and Antiquity is internationally renowned for its work and has played a leading role in recent Stonehenge discoveries and other high-profile projects. Closing this award-winning department and sacking staff will seriously damage the UK’s proud reputation as a leading light in archaeology.
 
‘The university has failed to explain properly to staff why the institute, given its fantastic track record, is facing the axe.’

 

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Who’s misinforming whom? – Save the IAA! via UCU

More information from the UCU regarding recent misinformation from the university about the proposed closure of the IAA department: 

As you may be aware, the University of Birmingham have sought to calm staff and student disquiet over the proposed closure of the Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity (IAA). In a recent statement the University described opposition to the closure of the IAA as “misinformation in the public domain”.

BUCU have decided to release this statement, in order to respond to what they believe is the University’s consistent attempt to misinform staff and, especially, students, about the plans to close the IAA.

The University currently claims that “there will be some reduction in staffing” and that the University has a “strong commitment” to the disciplines of the IAA. This is an extraordinary claim to make. The current proposal is to close the IAA entirely – whilst some staff will be moved to alternative departments around the University, 19 staff will be made redundant – this is over half of the non-professorial academic staff currently in the IAA. A reduction in staffing of this amount cannot in any way be construed as a strong commitment to the disciplines of Archaeology, Ancient History and Classics.

The University states that there is “absolutely no proposal to abolish any of these subjects at Birmingham”, yet it is the case that the University is proposing to close Single Honours Archaeology as an undergraduate degree from 2013.

The University claims to be “discussing the creation of a Centre for Archaeology Research”. Under the proposals, the number of archaeologists at the University of Birmingham would reduce from 18 to 4. These remaining 4 are likely to be scattered around different parts of the University, and connected via the Centre for Archaeology Research – which is likely to be a ‘virtual centre’ (i.e. a website!). To refer to this in terms of creating a new Centre is, we believe, preposterous.

The University states that the “there will be some reduction in staffing, but only to meet a reduction in the volume of students that can be recruited within the context of the evolving admissions landscape in England”. Yet, given that the core activity of 9 of the 19 members of staff proposed to be made redundant is not in the area of undergraduate teaching, it is difficult to see how the proposed redundancies could be entirely connected to declining numbers of students. Further, Classics and Ancient History has been consistently operating with staff-student ratios higher than most Russell Group universities for a number of years. There is no evidence to suggest that this is about to change.

Despite the assertion that the college will focus on “particular distinctive areas of strength”, the IBM Visualisation and Spatial Technology Centre (VISTA) – a globally respected research group associated with some of the most innovative and influential digital humanities and heritage research projects in Europe – is dismissed in the Review documents sent to Senate as ‘a suite of equipment designed to mediate and display archaeological research’.

The University also claims that the proposals have “the full support of the leadership within IAA”. We have no doubt that certain figures within the IAA support these proposals. Indeed, the process leading up to and including the current proposals appears almost entirely designed to save certain senior figures within the IAA from facing the consequences of their own dismal performance. This process has been disastrously mishandled from the outset:

  • The Review Panel included 3 senior members of IAA management, including the Head of School and Head of Archaeology, who were by definition of their positions instrumental in the supposed ‘underperformance’ of the IAA.
  • The Head of School made prior recommendations to the Head of College that pre-empted the outcome of the Review, and were made available to other members of the Review Panel, creating a clear risk that that the Review outcome would be prejudiced.
  • The Review lasted just one month.
  • The entire IAA academic staff were provided with one single 1-hour consultation meeting with the Review Panel during the Review.
  • Access by IAA staff to crucial data made available to the Review has been repeatedly denied by the University. A Freedom of Information request made by IAA staff seeking this information has been repeatedly delayed, going beyond both the standard time for requests to be dealt with, and an additional 10 working days which the University requested. BUCU also had all of this data redacted in the documentation it received as part of the redundancy consultations, and requests for the data have so far gone unheeded.
  • The outgoing Head of the IAA has now been rewarded with a move to become Head of Philosophy, Theology and Religion.
  • The outgoing Head of Archaeology has now been rewarded with a move to become the interim Head of the IAA.
  • No members of the professorial staff within the IAA have been put at risk of redundancy.
  • The University has flatly refused to follow its own Grievance procedure in response to a formal grievance raised by members of staff within the IAA regarding this process.
  • The University has written to all IAA students seeking to assure them that a petition to extend the 90-day staff consultation period is unnecessary.
  • The Head of College, Professor Michael Whitby, has directly contacted senior academics in Archaeology, Ancient History and Classics in other universities to deny claims that the University is ending activity in these areas.
  • And perhaps most remarkably, the University collected (and presumably destroyed) copies of the most recent Redbrick Newspaper that were left in their usual places around the University. This, we can only assume, was due to the front-page coverage of the proposal to close the IAA, and the damage that it was felt this would have had during the recent University Open Days!

BUCU are extremely worried about these developments. The Review of the IAA does not stand in isolation, it is the first of what we fear will be a number of reviews conducted across the College of Arts and Law. There is now an atmosphere of fear throughout the College, that similarly rapid reviews and more swingeing cuts will be implemented within other departments.

 

Sign the petition – Save the IAA – http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/save-the-iaa/ – already 1000 signatures collected

Sign the petition – Extend the 90-day consultation period -http://www.change.org/petitions/the-university-of-birmingham-extend-the-consultation-period-of-the-iaa-merger-review

 

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Extend the Consultation Period – Petition

It is felt by many people who are going to be affected by these proposals as well as other interested people that the placement and length of the consultation period is inadequate. It is currently placed other the Summer Break which makes it difficult for undergraduate students to be properly consulted. For this reason we are formally asking for the university to extend the consultation period and we have created a petition which we ask you to sign. Whilst this is not a petition directly against the recommendations of  the review if it is successful it will allow us to more fully critique and oppose the proposed changes.

The text of the petition reads:

“We, the undersigned, believe that whilst the review and consultation process of the proposed Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity (IAA) merger with the School of History & Cultures is in keeping with the rules and regulations of the university, it is still of an unsatisfactory standard for the students of both schools involved. The 90-day consultation has been started at a time when many students have already returned home for the summer break, and the commencement of the consultation was not announced to all implicated students until after lobbying by student representatives. The consultation is due to end before the start of the 2012/13 academic year, and as such will come to an end before undergraduate students return to the university.

We therefore formally request that the consultation be extended to Week 4 of the 2012/13 academic year. This will not only enable all students of both the IAA and School of History & Cultures to be fully consulted, but it will give the student representatives the time they need to effectively carry out their duties.

This is not a petition against the proposals of the review, but rather a petition to ensure fair and transparent consultation for students at the University of Birmingham.”

  

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BUCU Statement – Save the IAA!

The following is a statement by Birmingham UCU outlining the proposed changes to IAA and their response to them:

BUCU Statement – Save the IAA!

Following a very rapidly conducted review of the Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity (IAA), the review group, chaired by Professor Malcolm Press, recommended that the IAA be closed. This will mean the redundancy of 19 members of staff and have a large and detrimental impact on the teaching and research of Archaeology and Antiquity at the University of Birmingham. It also raises considerable concerns about the commitment of the University to both the Arts and Humanities, and to areas that (for whatever reason) are not considered to currently be fashionable or commercially important.

Existing IAA students have already expressed serious concerns about the impact this will have on their degrees, and staff and students expect that the bad publicity generated by this decision risks putting students off attending the University of Birmingham.

A campaign website has been created, which will be regularly updated -http://saveiaa.wordpress.com/

Please sign the Save the IAA campaign: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/save-the-iaa/

The main proposals of the University are:

• Closure of the Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity
• 19 staff to be made redundant – that is over half of the non-professorial academic staff currently in the IAA
• None of the individuals involved in the review are included in the list of staff at risk of redundancy
• All Professorial staff are excluded from the threat of redundancy, despite the assertion that the IAA has been failing for a number of years and the questionable leadership of sections of the Professorial staff in leading to such failure.

A number of very serious concerns have been raised with the University, including with Professor Press and Professor David Eastwood (through BUCU), by the staff of the IAA, regarding the process, timing and legitimacy of the review. These include, but are not limited to:
• The composition of the review panel consisted largely of senior members of the unit under review.
• The review took only one month to complete, with only one hour allocated for staff to meet with the review panel. This compressed timetable is unprecedented, and made it extremely difficult to make coherent and collaborative responses.
• Throughout the process, while a substantial amount of information was provided to the review panel, little documentation was provided to IAA staff, despite repeated requests for financial figures and KPTs. The information that was provided appeared to have been censored, or missing key sections, making it difficult for staff to contribute anything noteworthy to the review panel
• Due to the current lack of financial figures and associated information, staff lodged a Freedom of Information Act Request over 20 working days ago to obtain all the material provided to the review panel with the aim of producing an alternative plan that best fit the current situation. The staff were informed on 8th of June that the University would need more time to perform a Public Interest test. However, they failed to specify which exemptions they are applying, and it appears now that the University are stalling to provide any information that would enlighten staff
• A group grievance was lodged by the Project Group with HR concerning serious problems with senior IAA management.

Staff within the IAA now find themselves within the 90 day consultation period with a seemingly cosmetic opportunity to provide an alternative proposal to the plan currently tabled.

BUCU will be supporting the campaign to save the IAA, and hopes that members will provide support in the coming months.

Please sign the Save the IAA campaign: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/save-the-iaa/

BUCU committee
https://join.ucu.org.uk/

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