Anonymous testimony on unreasonable expectations at University of Liverpool – please vote now

We have received an anonymous testimony from one of our colleagues about their experiences and the expectations placed upon them in their role. While this member understandably wishes to remain anonymous, they have asked for this to be shared to encourage people to vote in the postal ballot.

Anonymous University of Liverpool UCU member testimony

It was my first job as a lecturer when I joined the University of Liverpool in 2015. I was looking forward to working in a Russell Group environment where I could develop internationally recognised research and use my research to excite and inspire my students.

When I was interviewed, nobody ever mentioned that I would be given hardly any time to research and that I was still expected to produce a steady stream of research papers.

Nobody mentioned at the interview that subjective judgements of my papers by colleagues could make the difference between keeping my job and losing it. I joined my Department at a time of rapidly rising student numbers. My timetable was full, and did not guarantee me a regular research day to write and research. I was given the role of leading a module that had more than 200 students. I also led on 3 other modules. This was fine and I understand the pressures of the modern university.

However, because of the daily administrative demands on my time, and because of the sheer weight of marking at some points in the year, I simply wasn’t able to spend as much time on my research as I hoped. Despite this, I managed to publish 3 journal articles and a book chapter in my first three years. Two of those articles were published in top ranked journals in my discipline.

As the time got closer to the end of my probation period, I was warned by my Head of Department that the scores I had been given by the Department REF reading panel were not good enough and that this might cause problems for my probation hearing. One of my articles was ranked at 3*, but the others were ranked as 2*. Apart from anything else, I found this decision bizarre. The weakest article in my opinion had been given the highest score, and my strongest, one that was published in one of the top journals in the field, was deemed 2*. I was told that this was a final decision: there was no appeal. And I was not allowed to know who had scored them.

At my probation hearing, I was not confirmed in post. My probation period has been extended by a year, and I was told I needed to produce another two papers marked at 3* by the end of the year. It was a genuinely Kafkaesque experience. I have no idea who is judging me and the criteria on which I am being judged is not at all clear. The University of Liverpool gave me a start in my career that I don’t think anyone should suffer. I

I am looking for other jobs. I love my colleagues, my students and the city, but the expectations placed on me are too stressful and for the sake of my sanity and physical wellbeing I cannot continue to work in this environment. I can live with high expectations but not with the arbitrary and frankly nasty approach at Liverpool.

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