The College Deaneries are about to undergo a large shakeup, with the means of selecting Assisting Deans set to change drastically.
Assistant Deans have historically been appointed by the College Principal, on the recommendation of the College Dean, are always postgraduate students (they may have been exceptions, but these would be rare), and are recompensed in the form of a rent rebate. ADs can get a 100% rebate on their respective College’s cheapest rooms, and can pay the difference out of their own pocket for anything more expensive. As it has always been an ‘office’ rather than a ‘job’, the role is not subject to employment law, and requires the post-holder to be on call and live on campus.
But it would appear that the University has had some Legal Advice, and is now in a mad dash to redefine the whole role and place any future Assistant Deans on hourly-paid HR contracts for 11.5 hours a week over 41 weeks.
While the prospect of Assistant Deans being afforded some small luxuries like holiday entitlement and employment rights is appetising, some are concerned that an hourly rate, rather than what is essentially a tied cottage, is actually going to leave them out of pocket.
One of the main discrepancies in pay is going to be across different colleges. As an Assistant Dean is still expected to be ordinarily resident on campus, it follows that the post-holders will have to spend all of the money they make from the Deanery on their accommodation. ADs get a 100% rebate on the cheapest accommodation in their college, but since Lonsdale’s cheapest room is more expensive than Bowland’s cheapest room, some ADs are going to benefit more than others.
The new reimbursement is also going to play merry hell with an AD’s taxes. Since ADs are expected to be on call, they are required to live on campus, and it is this distinction that made the rent rebate benefit non-taxable. If an AD is not earning over the tax threshold, then simply paying rent by direct debit isn’t going to present a problem.
If they are earning over the threshold, they would presumably have to fill in a self-assessment return to claim a tax rebate for their accommodation costs, and while the AD’s finances will eventually put themselves right, it’s no good waiting until the end of the tax year for any sum of money when you’re living hand to mouth.
subtext also understands that ADs are being told they will no longer be permitted to live in family flats, the bizarre rationale being that all ADs should live in the same block within a college. How they will accommodate for applicants who have, er, families, is unknown. Isn’t this discriminatory?
It’s hard to work out how the proposed new rate is going to affect the on-call duties of Assistant Deans. Will they be able to claim overtime, or is the on-call function going to be abolished entirely? Because if it is abolished, it would diminish both the need to have an AD living on campus, and the general effectiveness of the college deanery.
So why all this pettifogging and meddling in the college’s affairs from the centre? One thing’s for sure, the new system is going to pull a very large legal rug out from under an awful lot of people. Under the old system, somebody whose MA or PhD funding agreement was predicated on them not taking on any paid work could plausibly deny that they had a proper job (since they basically didn’t, they held an office) and save a bit of money on their rent. The change could also affect ADs on tier 4 visas.
The subtext collective could be completely wrong about the setbacks here, and the ADs may well end up feeling like a box of fluffy ducks. The trouble is, the concerns have not been allayed by the university, and a lot of current AD’s are a little miffed by it.
Still, it certainly is nice for Assistant Deans to be formally protected, even if the move may be perceived as distrust of the Colleges – not that the centre has ever been anything but respectful of college autonomy over the last 15 years, no sirree.
ON THAT NOTE
The Colleges are currently on the lookout for new Assistant Deans. The role is a great way to continue contributing to your College. On top of that, you won’t have to worry about your rent. Much.