Universities are going to have to be flexible to meet the demands of modern students and get the best out of staff. By John Dewar “The only man I know who behaves sensibly is my tailor; he takes my measurements More…
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Ah, so the Flexible New University is about doing away with staff benefits and safeguards altogether for the lucky group that still enjoy them. Perhaps V-C Dewar wants all staff to be casuals with no rights or power in the workplace whatsoever, working even more than the 60 to 90 hour weeks that most academics suffer at present (and increasingly, many general staff). He must also be out of touch with his University’s enterprise bargaining – teaching focused academics are being permitted by the NTEU for the first time to try to sop up some of that rampant casualisation (60%) besetting the industry, and thanks to the Fair Work Act, every enterprise agreement already has a flexibility clause. The disadvantage is that the staff have to agree to it – management would prefer that they can force staff to work all hours. In our experience, when staff ask for flexible working hours, it’s refused.
Nobody forces an academic to stick to 20% service activity. What the NTEU is trying to prevent is staff being stuck with huge teaching loads that will guarantee them an early grave. I’ve seen too many staff who don’t produce research because the teaching and administrative loads keep going up with no relief in sight.
What this sector is really suffering from is managers who impose endless burdens of administrivia on their staff in order to micro-manage them. Managers are multiplying like locusts to dream up ever more forms and processes, which require ever more administrative positions, many of which staff find added to their already huge workloads. Universities are, basically, creative industries, producing ideas, research, publications and teaching (itself a very creative activity). Over-controlling, and burdening staff with red tape, is not conducive to creativity. It just turns people off – which explains why morale in Universities is so appallingly low.
Please don’t conflate managerial flexibility with work flexibility. University workers have been working and thinking flexibly for years, producing for example the online education that managers are only just getting excited about. What we want is less managerial flexibility so we can get on with producing excellence while still having just a smidgeon of work-life balance so we live to see retirement.
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