AL AIN // Less than a year after teachers at United Arab Emirates University were told they had to move hundreds of kilometres to Fujairah and Al Gharbia or lose their jobs, their old posts in Al Ain have been readvertised.
The staff were relocated because the foundation courses they teach were being moved from UAUE in Al Ain to Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT) campuses in other parts of the country. The rehiring is necessary because moving the courses is taking longer than originally planned.
Michele Ricks, who quit her job last October rather than make the enforced move, said: "I didn't think I could get any angrier than I already am at my former employer, but this advertisement is a very hard slap in the face."
At least 20 of UAEU's 270 foundation teachers were told last May that their jobs would be moved because the university's foundation courses were being taken over by HCT. About 80 per cent of students accepted to federal universities do not have the required maths, English or IT skills, and have to take remedial classes before starting their degree.
The transfer of these classes is intended to free space at the UAEU campus in Al Ain for specialist teaching and research. It will also allow more students to stay at home while they reach the required basic standards at one of HCT's 16 campuses around the country, in turn saving UAEU transport and housing costs.
The moves began with students from Fujairah and Al Gharbia and were expected to continue in September this year, when foundation students from other areas were to have been moved to their local HCT. However, that expansion is now expected to be spread out over the next three to four years.
Because of that delay, UAEU will need more foundation teachers from September than had been expected - forcing it to employ teachers to replace the ones already transferred. It is now advertising for 30 new foundation teachers for the coming academic year.
The advertisement promises "excellent opportunities for qualified teachers to be involved in a progressive teaching programme with many professional development opportunities". It does not mention any possibility of being moved.
One foundation teacher still at UAEU said: "We're quite anxious about what's going on and it's left a feeling of uncertainty. Any one of us could be told to move in the future."
Another foundation teacher blogged on the UAE University Watch website: "You are expendable fodder, easily replaced. Your views, your moods, your feelings and your self-respect are not of the slightest concern. They will communicate to you at their leisure, not yours."
UAEU's provost, Rory Hume, said: "We did what we did last year because the decision about the students was made less than six months - the required notice period - before the change.
"Some teachers volunteered to move, but not enough, so we had to relocate some. Some of those were the ones who have complained, as I understand it."
Dr Hume has given eight of the transferred staff the option of returning to Al Ain. Five have accepted, while three decided to stay where they were and will become HCT employees from September.
There are few options for teachers still dissatisfied with their enforced move because the three federal universities have a non-poaching agreement, although staff have the option of moving to a private university.
Teachers who moved to HCT in Fujairah say they now have bigger workloads and longer hours for the same salary, despite having been told they would be on the same contracts as at UAEU.
One of them said: "It's outrageous that our terms and conditions can be so freely changed without our consent. We have no option but to accept what's happened or move away."