In response to a petition set up by Course Rep Benedetta Pusateri, the University has agreed to look into staffing levels in the English Department, in what Vice Chancellor Koen Lamberts has called a “special review”.
The petition, which at time of writing has 223 signatures, has three main objectives. Firstly, the Department should hire three new members of staff by the start of the academic year 2017/2018 without any further increase in student numbers.
Secondly, three additional members of staff should be hired by the start of the academic year 2019/2020 without any further increase in student numbers.
And lastly, the University should make a legally binding promise that there will never be an increase in student numbers without a proportional increase in staff members.
In his response, Lamberts acknowledged students’ concerns, and agreed to investigate the matter further.
He wrote: “Our normal process is to review staffing levels as part of the annual planning round, which takes place this term and is already underway. However, in the light of the concerns expressed in this petition and those raised with me by the Head of Department, I have asked the Deputy Vice-Chancellor & Provost, who chairs the Planning Committee, to undertake a special review of staffing levels in the Department.”
Such an investigation would identify “changes in student numbers since 2012-13”, “changes in staffing levels”, “projections for student levels over the period 2016-20”, and “comparative data drawn from top universities”.
Following communication with Head of Department David Attwell yesterday afternoon, Pusateri retracted her statement that student numbers have increased by 32 per cent since 2012, citing a miscalculation. Based on figures confirmed to Pusateri by Attwell, the Department’s student to staff ratio stands at approximately 20:1 (841 students to 40 staff), significantly different to that cited by The Complete University Guide as 14.8:1.
Speaking to York Vision, Attwell acknowledged “the staff-student ratio has weakened recently”, as staffing levels have only increased at roughly half the rate of student numbers.
He said: “The 32 per cent increase in student numbers has taken effect over a 10 year period, rather than since 2012, as reported.
“A reasonable estimate of the full-time staff 10 years ago would be around 35, as against 40 this year, so we have seen staff increases in the order of 12-15 per cent.”
Lamberts concluded his response to Pusateri’s petition by assuring students: “I have asked the DVC & Provost to liaise with colleagues in the Department and student representatives and to make recommendations on future staffing levels to me as soon as possible.
“The recommendations will then go forward to the Planning Committee later this term for formal consideration.”