Leicester Informatics 1046

Foundations of Computer Science are not redundant

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Under the name of "shaping for excellence", the University of Leicester will decrease its fundamental research capacity and the quality of our degree programmes. Planned are closures or major cuts in five Departments/Schools and in the Leicester Learning Institute, IT support, the library, and other divisions.

In Informatics, it looks like this: the University VC proposes to merge Informatics and Mathematics into a combined school focussed exclusively on AI, data science, computational modelling and "digitalisation". This includes the proposal to cease research in Foundations of Computer Science (FoCo) where research is "highly theoretical and not directly linked with applications", retaining staff only if the research they have published in the past (!) aligns well with the new desired focus on foundations of AI, computational modelling, data science and digitalisation. Staff have been given no opportunity to alter their research to fit with the proposed new direction. The plan is to make redundant (in the middle of a pandemic) all (up to 10) staff in foundations of computer science whose past research is deemed not to be a good enough fit with the new strategic priorities. It is worth mentioning that there are no financial issues in the School of Informatics: The School has had consistently very strong student recruitment for many years, has always been professionally accredited, has increased its research grant income substantially, and is highly profitable.

  • FoCo covers algorithm design and analysis, logic in computer science, foundations of software science, programming languages, concurrent systems, and testing and verification. The University management holds the view that, where this research is highly theoretical, it is not aligned with the proposed strategic priorities in AI, data science, computational modelling, and digitalisation.
  • The University management therefore wants to retain only those FoCo staff whose past research (judged e.g. via papers and grant applications) is deemed to be directly relevant to the foundations of AI, data science, computational modelling, and digitalisation.

The plan to drop all but the most applied research in foundations of computer science is short-sighted and will cause long-term damage to the quality and reputation of the School that remains.

What can you do?

Sign this petition, to strongly request that the Executive Board step back from the plans to largely eliminate research in foundations of computer science at the University of Leicester.

Add your position/affiliation if appropriate, and in the comments field any message of support for affected staff.

Pass on the link to your colleagues, and share on your favourite social media.

If you hold some sway, you might email, write to or phone the Vice Chancellor or the Chair of Council. If you don't... forward to someone who does.

The view that foundations and theory have no practical value permeates also the rest of the University management’s view as they intend to make redundant all 8 staff in pure mathematics. You can support our colleagues in mathematics by also signing their petition.

Some background on the business case:
Foco are not redundant

Press coverage:
Leicester Mercury 26 Jan

Update: Other petitions and open letters in support of staff at the University of Leicester whose jobs are at risk:

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The undersigned would strongly request that the University of Leicester withdraw the threat of redundancy for all staff in Foundations of Computer Science whose past research is not deemed to be a good enough fit with newly proposed narrow strategic priorities.

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