17th Jul, 2019

Students plea for clarity from Coventry University on potential researcher lay-offs amid protest

Felix Nobes 15th Mar, 2019

COVENTRY University has come under pressure to clarify to its paid researchers whether their jobs will be lost amid the feared closure of two research centres.

The Observer spoke with three PhD students who have made huge sacrifices to study under their preferred academics at the university.

But those academics are now faced with the threat of redundancy and many of their students could be unable to finish their research projects.

Several spoke at an Alternative Open Day protest spearheaded by Coventry’s branch of the University and College Union (UCU).

Three academics spoke about the potential closure of the centres at the protest to which more than 40 people turned out.

The university says it has launched a consultation for staff at the ​​Centre for Advances in Behavioural Science (CABS) and the Centre for Innovative Research Across the Life Course (CIRAL).

The University and College Union (UCU) has demanded an urgent meeting with university chiefs to discuss the plans and their impact.

Its Coventry branch posted on Facebook that 53 jobs were at risk in what it claimed would amount to the closure of the centres.

PhD student Thomas Coleman told us: “I packed up my life, leaving my 10-year-old daughter with my parents in the USA, borrowed over $20,000, and flew over 4,000 miles across the Atlantic for one reason and one reason only—to study under my chosen academics at Coventry University’s Brain, Belief, and Behaviour Research Lab.

“A few weeks ago, it was revealed to me by Coventry staff that they are dissolving my research unit and will most likely layoff my entire advisory team.

“It is difficult to express the amount of emotional and professional turmoil this possibility is causing myself.”

Psychology researcher at CABS Sarah Charles said: “As hourly paid lecturers, we are currently paid the same as ‘Student Ambassadors’ who help pack up after university events.

“This is just one demonstration of the lack of respect the university has for its post-graduate researchers (PGRs).

“Moreover, Coventry University have still not told us what the exact nature of the plans are, nor how we might be affected, even though our supervisors have tried to give us as much clarity as they can.

“Our supervisors have let us know that there is a very real possibility of them losing their jobs upon closure of CABS.

“The proposed plans to close CABS and CIRAL goes ahead, I will lose two of my supervisors.

“This means that I am unsure if I will even be able to continue being able to afford the costs that come with taking on a project of this scale.”

PhD student Kyle Messick said: “When it comes to how this change could impact me, the result could be devastating.

“I am not meant to defend my thesis until around September, however, I’ve been told that all three of my supervisors might be fired in July, and I won’t even find out until the end of March.

“If my supervisors are removed, then no one remaining at Coventry University will have anywhere near the expertise needed to assist me with completing my thesis.

“Not only do these actions show a disregard for students and their well being, but they also show a great disrespect for our supervisors.”

A Coventry University spokesperson said: “Our Faculty of Health and Life Sciences is reviewing its research activities to focus on the demands and opportunities associated with a changing healthcare and funding landscape. As such it is reshaping its resources to ensure that its research is delivering the highest quality outputs.

“The faculty has entered a period of consultation with a number of staff in two of its research centres. While the consultation is ongoing, we can’t comment further other than to offer our assurances that staff will be supported throughout this process.”

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