Reporter 412, 15 December 1997


Short-term vision

A contract researcher
(name supplied)

I was interested in both the tone and the content of the letter Career Moves (Reporter 410). Surely it is understood that research is largely conducted by contract researchers, whose situation is defined as temporary and who are, therefore, going to leave their present post whether they like it or not.

All efforts made by the University to acknowledge and address the inherent insecurity of the contract researcher are welcomed by those who work under contract, and whose lives are sometimes a succession of short-term posts which involve immense upheaval and whose future plans are often seen, as is clear from the aforementioned letter, as a ‘threat’ by those who have no inkling of what it means to have to both fulfil the demands of research proposals, and secure for themselves employment when their contracts end.

My own experience suggests that the whole edifice of university recruitment is increasingly geared, in keeping with the world beyond academe, to a policy of short-term contracts. However, while the system promotes efficiency on the one hand, it tends to give only begrudging recognition of the realities of contract research staff needs – inflexible pensions being a example of this.

Please let’s not pretend that anyone is encouraging anyone to leave – contract researchers are rarely in a position to be encouraged to do anything other than get the research done and move on – and where they move on there is every likelihood of their needing to move at short notice. It is this sort of situation which needs to be addressed, and it is to the credit of Leeds University that it takes its obligation to do so seriously.

Warm wishes

Mrs Sue Batchelor, Programmes Manager, Division of Nursing
Dr Michael Frearson, Project Consultant, School of Continuing Education

We were pleased to see the new work-based learning programmes in the Division of Nursing covered in the last Reporter and would like to add our warm congratulations to all members of the development teams in the Division for the completion of a successful project.

True gentlemen

Anne Williams
Personnel Co-ordinator
Leeds University Union

May I, through your letters page, thank the two Middle-Eastern gentlemen (and I use that word in its truest sense) who came to my assistance when I fell on some wet leaves opposite the School of English on Wednesday, 19 November. They not only helped me up and recovered my scattered belongings, but were genuinely concerned for my welfare. Kindnesses such as this are so rare these days that when they do occur, they are all the more appreciated. Whoever you are, may you both be blessed.

Students at work

Alan Slomson
Director of Undergraduate Studies, School of Mathematics

For the past few years we have included a question about paid term-time employment when we have surveyed student opinion of our first year Mathematics course.

In December 1996, 5 out of 76 students said they had a term-time job, averaging 11 hours of work each. This year 16 out of the 102 respondents said they had paid jobs, averaging 15 hours.

The 1996 figures may have been biased by a rather low response rate, but on the face of it there seems to have been a significant increase in the term-time employment of our students.

These figures relate to students who, with very few exceptions, are just completing their first term in the University.

I would be interested to know whether similar information is monitored elsewhere in the University, and, if so, what the results show.

Car trouble

Dr Vic Rogers
School of Textile Industries

University motorists are probably seething with rage, and rightly so, at the insidious machinations of the government to blame car drivers, and car drivers solely, for the traffic congestion problems and general pollution in city centres. Even our own Institute for Transport Studies is party to this noxious development.

To suggest that cars should be banned from city centres (and I seem to recall in an earlier Reporter, suburbia), that they be electronically tagged, face deliberately engineered road blocks, and that car drivers be actually fined for using their cars, is effrontery of the highest order.

I travel regularly, and long distance, by train (expensive and invariably dirty and late), bus (smelly and filthy) and car (comfortable, even when both inside lanes of the M1 are blocked with crawling and smoky behemoth lorries). Why single out cars for environmental ‘bashing’ when it is the buses, coaches and diesel trains that cause particulate emissions? Are they going to be banned?

And how will these hordes of ex-car commuters be accommodated? I suggest some academics at the Institute for Transport Studies try to find a place, never mind a seat, on the Friday evening Virgin Cross-Country train service to Birmingham (when it also conveniently increases fares by 40%).

We would be more amenable to public transport if it were efficient, inexpensive and clean. Perhaps a solution would be to encourage small efficient cars, and penalise large ones, as well as lorries and coaches.

Motorists, your freedom is at stake! Get out of your Ferraris and fight!

Words of wisdom

Dr Nevill Rice
Mining and Mineral Engineering

Recently while completing my staff review form by computer I ran a spell check. The alternatives presented for the word ‘bioleaching’ were ‘bellyaching’ or ‘bollocking’! Perhaps these two words encapsulate the whole staff appraisal process?

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