It is no exaggeration to state that Professor Newell is the most prominent UK scholar in Italian politics: in many respects, with his work he has brought this discipline to the UK. For this reason, as the Executive Committee of the Italian Politics Specialist Group of the UK’s Political Studies Association, we were deeply surprised and dismayed by this decision and are petitioning for his reinstatement.
Since the 1990s Professor Newell has organised more than 30 international conferences, events and workshops on a wide range of topics, from changing representative politics to the role of organised crime, to populism and corruption. His academic production is truly impressive: over the last 25 years he has completed 5 monographs (two are forthcoming), 11 edited volumes, 44 journal articles and 48
The decision to dismiss Professor Newell has been justified by Salford University on the basis of arbitrarily set targets concerning the capture of research funding, and what was regarded as Newell’s insufficient contribution to the University’s desire to strengthen its links with business. Most importantly, he was dismissed in accordance with market-driven performance criteria introduced by the University, unilaterally, after his appointment as a professor, and applied retroactively. The dismissal of an internationally renowned scholar for these reasons speaks volumes about the level reached by processes of marketisation of higher education in the UK.
The duty of academics is to conduct good quality research and – importantly – teach and support their students. These are duties professor Newell has always taken very seriously throughout the years. There is no doubt that research grants can be useful to some, in some contexts; however, there are no guarantees that grant applications will be successful, especially now that all academics are constantly pressurised by their institutions to apply. Equally, not all research provides obvious and immediate ways for commercial exploitation, nor are academics trained to set up joint ventures with private corporations.
For all these reasons, we urge The University of Salford to reconsider their decision to dismiss Professor Newell, and think again about how this will impact negatively not only on him as an academic, but also on the University of Salford’s image and international reputation.
To this end, we started a petition in support of Professor Newell, asking the University of Salford’s VC to reinstate him. In a few days, the petition has been signed by over 4,000 academics (including many leading political/social scientists and not just Italian politics specialists) from all over the world. This is a clear testimony both to the reputation and respect that Professor Newell enjoys among the international academic community, and to the reckless decision made by the University of Salford.
The petition can be signed at this link: chn.ge/2Jase5D, and the debate can be followed also on Twitter @PSA_IPSG.
We have no intention of giving up – not just because Professor Newell is a core member of our group, but also because if something like this can happen to an academic of his standing, then it could happen to each and every one of us. And, most importantly, this is not the kind of HE environment any of us wish to be part of.
We hope that many of you will join us, signing and sharing the petition.
IPSG Executive Committee.