Piano lecturer challenges CIT’s decision to dismiss him

Posted in Legal issues on February 4th, 2019 by steve

Ireland“A lecturer at Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) has brought a High Court challenge aimed at quashing the college’s decision to dismiss him from his post. Brian McNamara’s proceedings against CIT, the Minister for Education and Skills and the State claims he was not lawfully dismissed from his role as a piano lecturer at the Cork School of Music, which became part of CIT …” (more)

[Aodhan O’Faolain, Irish Times, 4 February]

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Top civil servant would ‘welcome debate on making it easier to fire public sector workers’

Posted in Legal issues on July 23rd, 2014 by steve

“The top civil servant in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) has said that he would welcome a debate on making it easier to dismiss public sector workers …” (more)

[Lise Hand, Independent, 23 July]

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The Higher Education and Research Bill 2014 – 5. Staff: tenure

Posted in Governance and administration, Legal issues on April 8th, 2014 by steve

Academic tenure is probably the most controversial area addressed by the Barrett bill. Unfortunately the agenda is far from clear. Senator Barrett writes of addressing “the problems created by the Cahill v. Dublin City University case [2009] IESC 80” (which are …?). He adds that “[m]uch of what is understood as tenure is actually the norms and practices of the public service being applied to higher education and research” – a controversial statement, to put it mildly. As it is, we have proposals in the draft bill, but little by way of justification or explanation. There seem to be four main issues:

Fixed-term contracts. This is flagged up as an issue by Senator John Crown, who graphically referred to researchers “living from one six-month period to the next, wondering when they will get another research grant or whether, at the whim of people whose vanity research project is satisfied by their activities, they have a job to go to”. It is not clear what, if anything, the Barrett bill will do for such people; I rather suspect that cl 24(8)(e)(ii) (“discharge of the contract by operation of law”) is meant to ensure that it does nothing at all. If this is not a problem that the bill means to address, this should be made clearer.

Progression. Cl 24(8)(c) proposes a probationary period of 24 months for all academics (“teachers or investigators”), after which they acquire tenure. Senator Kathryn Reilly has already suggested that this is on the long side. I suspect that university management will regard it as too short, as a proper demonstration of fitness will probably involve quite a bit of paperwork, and the bill requires 6 months’ notice of a refusal to grant tenure (cl 24(8)(d)(ii)). And how is this framework to deal with internal promotions? – If a lecturer with tenure is promoted to a senior lectureship, does s/he lose tenure for 24 months? On all of these issues, this seems to be an area where higher education institutions will already have settled procedures, almost certainly negotiated with union representatives, and so a careful case for outside intervention will need to be made.

Removal for cause. The bill gives various procedural rights to staff members whose removal for cause is being considered, including (“if possible”) a right to be heard both by the academic council and by the governing authority. The right to academic freedom (cl 13) would no doubt be of relevance in many such cases. Where what is alleged is incompetence, there should be evidence from teachers and scholars. Dismissal should carry a right to a year’s pay unless the case involves “moral turpitude” (cl 24(8)(d)(iv)). But what is this all for? It would help considerably if Senator Barrett could state clearly what he sees as the problem here: the existing defence of academic freedom, and procedural rights on dismissal, are already substantial. What is he trying to achieve?

Removal for redundancy. Current university law already guarantees tenure (Universities Act 1997 s 25(6)), but does this preclude redundancy? The only judge ever to attempt an answer (Clarke J in Cahill v. Dublin City University [2007] IEHC 20 para 6.3) thought not, though a carefully-written institutional statute would be needed. But the matter remains unclear. The Barrett bill guarantees tenure in general, but makes an exception for “extraordinary circumstances because of financial exigencies” (cl 24(8)(c)), which exigencies must be “demonstrably bona fide” (cl 24(8)(e)). What does this mean? Experience suggests that there are three main situations where an institution is likely to seek redundancies:

  1. where a particular income stream (grant, programme income), which pays for specific posts, dries up, and it is decided to terminate the posts;
  2. where a particular department or unit persistently makes losses, and so there is a decision to close it or scale it down;
  3. where the institution as a whole is in deficit, and it is decided to reduce total staffing bring the institution back within budget.

Case 1 is already a familiar part of the higher education scene; case 2 would change institutional politics profoundly, as “black hole” departments would suddenly find their position infinitely more precarious than hitherto; and case 3 will become the new nightmare for all staff who cannot produce instant and reliable proof of their indispensability.

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The Dark Side of the REF

Posted in Research on August 9th, 2013 by steve

“There’s a disturbing story in the latest Times Higher which argues that the University of Leicester has apparently reneged on a promise that non-submission to the forthcoming (2014) Research Excellence Framework (REF) would not have negative career consequences …” (more)

[In the Dark, 8 August]

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REF non-submission may have consequences, Leicester warns

Posted in Governance and administration on August 8th, 2013 by steve

“… For this reason, it says, the position of all staff eligible for the REF but not submitted will be reviewed. Those who cannot demonstrate extenuating circumstances will have two options. Where a vacancy exists and they can demonstrate ‘teaching excellence’, they will be able to transfer to a teaching-only contract …” (more)

[Paul Jump, Times Higher Education, 8 August]

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Sack threat to public servants ‘on talks agenda’

Posted in Governance and administration on November 26th, 2012 by steve

“The Government plans to make it easier to sack bad workers from the public sector under its new Croke Park deal. Staff who showed an interest in retiring earlier this year, but then backed out, are also to be enticed into a new voluntary redundancy scheme to reduce numbers …” (more)

[Fionnan Sheahan, Independent, 26 November]

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