Higher education, bureaucracy and expenses.

Bit of a ramble this one. Stick with it. The crunch is at the end.

This week I should have been recommencing my part time degree studies at the University of Kent at Canterbury. I’d been doing well and finished stage one with distinction. I say should have been rather than I am in part because of the shortsighted, inequitable and bureaucratic application of policies and guidance by my current employer. The other part is down to me.

Prior to April 2007 I’d been working for a different organisation. They had been supportive of my studies in that they were paying the annual fees. For the type of organisation I work for the fees were and are no more than a drop in the ocean. I continued to work full time though managed my workload around my studies and lectures. By that I mean there was no reduction in my workload. I was never bothered by this, even after I have found out there were others in my position provided with the additional support. The fact that tuition fees and expenses were paid sanctioned my attendance and provided a space for me to be creative with my time. As long as productivity was not impaired and deadlines were met I was pretty much left to get on with it. My immediate managers were helpful in that work was allocated to me in such a way that I could space it out throughout the year such that I could weight it more heavily when I was not studying i.e. between April and September. This all changed in April

The change came about by my statutory transfer to another organisation. Statutory as the transfer was tied up with revised legislation and I had no grounds to appeal against the move due to the nature of work I was doing. If this sounds even slightly interesting then it’s immensely more so than what it actually is in reality.

When I was transferred I made a request for the support I had been getting to continue. I really did expect this to be no more than a formality. Perhaps not least because the organisation I work for now is all about promoting development and learning. I was surprised to have my request all but turned down. The offer made was of a maximum of £175.00 towards the fees. The fees amount to about £800.00 for this year. It was made clear that there would be no allowances for time out to study; no reduction in workload and that any and all other expenses would have to be met out of my own pocket. Add to this the fact I have been allocated next to no work over the summer and will have to work like a donkey between now and April to meet my new *performance targets*.

Perhaps this is not so bad and maybe better than a lot of other people might get; I realize that but I’m having a rant. Any way I am not eligible for other means of support with fees as I earn slightly above the threshold for anything else to kick in. My wife and I are one of those couples who are committed to raising our own kids rather than paying someone else to do so thus the only money coming in is that which I earn. Again I earn just above the threshold to get anything more than a few pounds a month family tax credits. We pay our own way.

Now you might think what am I moaning about? Aside from the rant factor and that my job bores me rigid the reason I started my degree in the first place was it was made clear I had little if no chance of moving up the corporate food chain without one. Not that it would particularly enhance my competence but because it was a *given* that one was required to have any chance of promotion. I dutifully completed the nonsense of corporate performance and development reviews and it was agreed that so long as I continue to perform I would be supported in the way I have described to study for a degree. I was to join the hoards and become a university graduate. I could reluctantly see that with the multitude of graduates being churned out and the weight given to possessing a degree, experience and track record would not cut it alone. I bit the bullet. That was two years ago.

Back now to the decision by my current employer to offer nothing more than the support described; I appealed. I provided evidence that whatever policy was being applied had been applied unfairly. I provided names and examples of colleagues (with their permission) who were getting exactly the support I was specifically being denied. I argued the degree would enhance my value as an employee, as I had earnestly been informed it would. It all fell on deaf ears. Where I’d gone wrong was failing to request the support I was now asking for prior to my transfer, as apparently the others who I had named had done. The procedures had been followed and the original decision was upheld. They added that this year funding was limited and that resources were being channeled to another directorate to help those there without a degree attain graduate status. My protestations about the shortsightedness of the decision and the increased cost there would be should I discontinue and commence at such time the strategy changes were ignored.

So I carry a full workload with no allowances made for the study time, I am penalized if I get behind in meeting *performance targets* and I pay 80% of the fees and all other expense incurred. All to get a degree I’m not that interested in to raise my chances of being promoted within a sector I’d gladly walk away from tomorrow. I’ve decided to intermit for a year and try for more support next year. Such is the way of working in the public sector.

I bet there are people out there who feel reassured their taxes are being looked after carefully. Well here’s one in the eye especially for them.

I got a call today from a colleague asking me if I knew what the subsistence allowances were. That’s expenses paid for meals and such like when out and about on business. They went on to tell me that they had recently had their expenses audited. The auditors got back to them and informed them that they had been under spending. It seems that if we don’t spend the full allowance this is marked as a discrepancy. My colleague had not been spending enough. They were told that they could either make an additional claim for the extra they were entitled to or that they could effectively splash out until such time the anomaly was canceled out. Bureaucracy at its best.

2 Comments

  1. Without a degree even the VSO (apparently and according to some hooray Henrrieta on the radio recently) won’t be interested in you. And who said there was any logic in the way our lovely civil servants(?) think.
    I can think of more people with common sense and no degree than I can that hold that magic bit of paper.

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