Professors’ Forum Letter to Chair of Council – Our Associate Lecturers are essential

This letter was sent from the Professors’ Forum to Goldsmiths Chair of Council Dinah Caine, on Saturday 23 May, in response to the college’s bank holiday weekend communication that they will decline furlough for Associate Lecturers.

Dear Dinah Caine,

We hope you are well. We have followed College’s Pandemic briefings to staff and are encouraged that principles for consultation are part of that. Meanwhile the process for collective change that we have put forth has been taken up by the majority of departments across campus.  We feel that this dialogical process is an important counterbalance to the possibly atomising effects of the Consultation Hub’s suggestion-box form of participation.


We are writing today with grave concern following yesterday’s announcement to decline furlough for Associate Lecturers (AL). We realise that these posts will not be extended until student numbers for the new  academic year are confirmed.  This is causing a great deal of insecurity and anxiety for some of our most junior and precarious members of the academic community. We thought that it might be useful for members of Council to understand better the vital contribution ALs make to Goldsmiths and the deleterious effect of losing them. 


Associate Lecturers work in a range of different situations, mostly in fractional posts. Many are hired on short term contracts and are non-permanent members of staff. Some departments, prevented from creating permanent full-time or part-time posts are obliged to recruit ALs. Some are drawn from our pool of PhDs, an important teaching experience and career development opportunity for them. ALs are not generic academics, guns for hire, or substitutes. In creative departments they may be successful artists for whom a part-time position allows them to continue a high profile career, all while bringing to Goldsmiths their reputations. We have had postgraduate applicants who tell us that they applied Goldsmiths as a way to work with a particular luminary. In other cases, MA provision could not be managed without ALs, such as placements and internships. This demonstrates how ALs are a crucial interface between college and the broader world, our relationships with industry and the cultural sector.


ALs are essential in enabling Goldsmiths to deliver our range of programmes at undergraduate and postgraduate level but find themselves vulnerable and precarious. They enrich our distinctive university environment, attract applicants, and cannot be easily replaced. Some programmes simply cannot run without them and even risk breaching the learning contract established at recruitment. Absence of ALs next year will most certainly drive new students away from enrolling, having a direct impact on income.


We hope very much that Goldsmiths, rather than taking the step of non-renewal of contracts, will seek ways to retain our ALs and recognise the absolutely vital role they play in our survival. Furlough would extend their contracts until October and sustain them through the crisis and ensure their availability in the Autumn. The government’s scheme is being used for ALs by other HEIs like King’s College and Sheffield University. We feel that SMT are making an error not to take up this option. This may be due to their lack of understanding of ALs, and demonstrates a disconnect with staff.


This letter has become longer than expected, but is an example of how we hope that information on what is happening on the ground can be helpful for members of Council. Wishing you a nice Bank Holiday weekend,


Members of the Steering Group of the Professors’ Forum:

Irit Rogoff, Alan Pickering, Bill Gaver, Anna Furse, Des Freedman, Natalie Fenton, Matthew Fuller, Evelyn Ruppert, Sanjay Seth, Atau Tanaka