A Dundee University lecturer has quit his job in a high-profile social media post, as some of his former colleagues start a two-week strike.
DJCAD communication design lecturer Tommy Perman announced his departure shortly before the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) picket line appeared outside the university yesterday morning.
The staff have joined similar demonstrations across the country, protesting pay, pensions and working conditions.
Writing on social media, Mr Perman – who had been in his post for three years – said a “negative culture perpetuated by management” and overbearing workloads had contributed to a decline in his health.
“I am unwilling to continue working in a system that is toxic and exploits staff and students alike,” he said.
“I absolutely love teaching so I am very sad and very angry that it has come to this.”
Students have set up a campaign, #WESEEU, calling for universities to do better by both staff and those they teach.
View this post on Instagram
I have resigned from my job as a lecturer in communication design because I am unwilling to continue working in a system that is toxic and exploits staff and students alike. The UK’s universities are so incredibly broken right now it’s beyond belief. I am a member of the University and College Union and totally support them but I am not on strike (everyone should take action within their means). However, I am protesting in other ways. This will be my last semester in academia – I leave in the summer exactly four years to the day since I started the full time job (unless I’m kicked out earlier for speaking out! Who knows today might be my last day). Despite being there for four years, by the time I leave I will still not technically have progressed beyond my probation period. Probation is laughably 3 years long at University of Dundee and mine was recently extended by a year, and I paraphrase here, to give me extra time to figure out how to cope with the stress of my job. The stress I have experienced due to overwork and the negative culture that is perpetuated by management has led to significant mental and physical ill health. It has had a huge impact on me and my family. I went through all the existing channels available to try to improve my situation (management, HR, counselling, occupational health…) but as I have found out the current system is so skewed that it seems impossible for me to make things better. For self preservation my best option was to resign. My situation is not unusual, I am one of many hundreds if not thousands of staff working in academia now who have experienced similar things. Many don’t feel able to speak out as there is a culture of bullying and harassment which successfully keeps these things under wraps. As I am leaving I feel it is absolutely my duty to speak out about these issues. Education is so important. I absolutely love teaching so I am very sad and very angry that it has come to this. We all deserve better. Please read about the issues affecting the UK’s universities and support the UCU’s strike and campaigns. Write to your MPs and or MSPs. Demand change!
University workers with knowledge of the lecturer’s situation said it was not uncommon for staff to be “browbeaten” with what was felt to be unreasonable demands from the university.
Mr Perman was understood to manage as many as 120 students on full-time courses in different parts of the university campus.
Design student Charis Thompson, 20, is among those responsible for the #WESEEU campaign and says she and her classmates had not been kept abreast of issues related to the strike.
“We’re campaigning to demand greater transparency from the university,” she said.
“We didn’t know anything about the strikes as recently as two weeks ago. Students know nothing about what’s going on behind the scenes.
“It’s disgraceful. DJCAD is losing one of its best lecturers.”
Those striking from now until March 11 are demanding a real-terms pay rise, a cut in pension contributions and fairer work conditions.
Carlo Morelli, president of the UCU in Scotland, said universities were prioritising investment and lucrative fee-paying overseas students over the value of education.
He said: “There is a crisis in higher education, right across the UK, because the universities are working more and more like businesses than as educational establishments.”
The university has criticised the UCU for reviving strike action while discussions continue to take place over pensions.
A spokesman for the institution said the issues raised by Mr Perman were being addressed directly by DJCAD bosses.
He added: “The vast majority of classes and lectures are still taking place across the university, and for many students there will be no impact.
“For those who are impacted, we are doing everything we can to mitigate the effects and support students in their learning and assessment.
“The university’s own staff survey conducted over autumn 2019 showed 92% of staff agreed `the university is a good place to work’.”