LA: I’m going to write a monograph.
NLU1: You can’t do that, as it won’t count as much in the next research evaluation exercise, publish journal articles in top ranking journals instead.
LA: OK, look I published lots of articles in top ranking journals. I got the top score in the research evaluation exercise.
NLU1: That is great, but you really need to get a big grant (so you can keep on doing the work you used to do very well without an external grant).
LA: OK, I got a big grant.
NLU1: That’s great, but now we’ve decided that we’re mostly a STEM university, so we’re not so interested in your grant. We’re going to close a few programmes in humanities and social sciences, just because …
LA: OK, I’ll take a job in another university where STEM and HSS are valued.
NLU1: Fine, see ya.
NLU2: Here’s a new job, great you have this big grant, we like that a lot here, but I’m afraid you need to take a big pay cut. And do REF, REF is coming.
LA: Oh, that sucks, really?
NLU2: Yes, afraid so, but don’t worry, the pension here is much better than in NLU1 and your salary will catch up really quickly. And by the way REF is coming.
LA: Oh yes, I see, the pension does make up for the pay cut and I believe you when you say the pay cut is temporary. OK, I’ll accept the job offer and work on the big grant that I got when I was at NLU1. Can I please have enough time to do the work I promised the funders I would do?
NLU2: Sorry no, the overheads are going to another university so we’re not going to recognize your grant. But here’s an overcapacity teaching load for you. We’ve also based your workload on a physical science model. And by the way REF is coming.
LA: But I am not a physical scientist, I am a humanities scholar.
NLU2: It doesn’t matter. Physical scientists are way cooler than humanists and they get bigger grants, so you should too. And REF is coming, what are you doing about REF?
LA: I’m struggling with this teaching load. Is it possible to have a more manageable teaching load? And I would really like to write my monograph. It would be good for this REF thing you love so much.
NLU2: Maybe you can have a manageable teaching load in the future, but the problem is mostly you and your failure to time manage properly. Even though you’ve been a productive academic for many years and raised two kids as a single parent, please talk to your younger male colleague about how to manage your time better. In the meantime, continue with the overcapacity teaching load. And monographs don’t matter, can’t you just publish in Nature. Nature is the most awesome publication ever. It’s great for REF scores.
LA: No, I am a humanities scholar, I can’t publish in science journals. Can I please earn as much as my younger and less experienced male colleagues? And I’m still earning a lot less than I was when I came here years ago.
NLU2: No, you can’t. Oh well, maybe you can, get some external grants that bring in overheads, oh and do some leadership. And some impact and some knowledge exchange. But don’t forget REF.
LA: OK, I got some grants that brought in overheads, even though I’m still trying to deliver on the external grant that doesn’t bring in overheads to this NLU. And I’m doing some leadership. And some impact and some knowledge exchange. Can I please have a manageable teaching load, so I can do the work I promised the funders I would do? By the way, I still want to write my monograph.
NLU2: No sorry, the grants you got aren’t big enough. But here’s an overcapacity teaching load for you. Also, what have you got for the REF?
LA: I can’t get bigger grants because I need time to work on the existing grants and do my overcapacity teaching load. And also because I am a humanities scholar and the grant income targets are unrealistic and unattainable. Oh, did you ever notice that my teaching is really good? I get really good evaluations and nominations for teaching awards.
NLU2: I see that, but our NSS scores are disappointing. You need to do even better.
LA: Now I’ve got some external grants, and have done some leadership, and some impact and some knowledge exchange, and have been a great teacher in spite of my overcapacity teaching load, can I please earn as much as my younger and less experienced male colleagues? I put my monograph on hold to do all the other things you wanted me to do.
NLU2: No, because you haven’t adequately demonstrated the consequences of your leadership. You need to make your leadership visible, like a superhero might. Didn’t you ever watch Superman?
LA: No but I saw Wonder Woman and it made me feel like smashing the patriarchy for a good half hour after the movie.
NLU2: Whatever. And REF, REF, REF.
LA: Ok, now I’m still doing my overcapacity teaching load and demonstrating the consequences of my leadership, so I don’t have time to deliver on the grants you asked me to get but then decided weren’t large enough. And I still don’t have time to write my monograph.
NLU2: Least of your problems, actually, as now we’ve decided to cut your pension. We’ve decided we are going to make your pension even worse than it was in NLU1. You can retire on £6000 a year.
LA: But I can’t live off £6000 a year. You told me that I would get a better pension if I took a job here.
NLU2: Yes, but we’ve changed our mind. The good thing is that we can manufacture narratives and fake numbers because we’re not subject to peer review or REF criteria. That being rigorous, methodologically sound and transparent stuff is just for you guys. And anyway, we need money for shiny buildings and VC salaries in order to enhance the student experience.
LA: OK, I’ll withdraw my labour.
NLU2: But you’ll harm the students. Don’t you care about your students?
LA: The students are supporting us. They are tired of the commodification of the university too. They’re occupying a university building in solidarity with us. And learning about resistance and how to make a better kind of university for them and for us. They are getting a fantastic education in the occupation.
NLU2: They can’t simply occupy university premises.
LA: They already did. While we’ve been on strike, we’ve been thinking a lot about leadership and impact. Do the VCs have to do some leadership and impact things too? You know, make their leadership more consequential and impactful. We are paying them quite well. They won’t have to live off £6000 a year in retirement.
NLU2: The VCs are so important that they can only do non-committal forms of leadership. And they have access to really complex information that you don’t get to see and wouldn’t understand anyway. They are really smart dudes. So smart, they don’t even stand by the work they published in top-ranking journals when they were ordinary academics.
LA: OK, I’ll be working well into my 70s, maybe I can write my monograph then. I’m grateful that you’ve given me such an in-depth insight into the gendered and embodied consequences of the marketization of the university.
NLU2: Just come back to work, you’ll miss an important REF workshop if you don’t. And we’ll have to give your grant overheads back to the funders and we need this money for our building projects and rounds of pornstar martinis.
LA: Actually no, I like the way the Cochabambinos and the Zapatistas said “¡Ya basta!”.
NLU2: I have no idea what that means.
LA: No, but our students do, that is why they’re in the occupation.