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Produced by Belfast Association of University Teachers Issue No 4 May 1998

ACADEMIC RESTRUCTURING

 

The timetable for discussing Academic Planning Group’s proposals for restructuring the academic areas of the university is now falling into place. Meetings have been ongoing between APG and Provosts, and more may be held. While it is possible that some arrangements may be changed, in the main the following is beginning to look like the final shape:

11 May APG meets Research Committee

13 May APG meeting with Directors

19 May APG meeting with AUT

20 May (latest) Circulation of agenda and report for special Academic Council meeting.

20 May onwards College Assembly meetings

21 May Meeting of General Board of Studies

27 May Academic Council

2 June Senate

In an earlier Newsletter we announced a special Belfast AUT General Meeting. The arrangements for that have now been altered. Please place in your diary:

AUT General Meeting

New Physics Lecture Theatre,

Wednesday 20 May, 1.00 p.m.

Some members of staff who are in areas which might be adversely affected by the review have already been invited to confidential meetings with senior colleagues in their Colleges next week: we anticipate that this will become more prevalent over the next few days. Do note that only Academic Council and Senate can take decisions about the future of academic areas in the university. APG will wish as much as possible for the main issues to be cut and dried by then. But you have opportunities to make your voice heard if you are unhappy with the implications of the review, and should be trying to decide your priorities, and to prepare your case. In e.g. College Assemblies, make sure your comments are minuted. Detailed information about student demand, relative costs and benefits, and the impact upon the university’s teaching profile in the province are probably more help than denunciations of sin. Officers of the Association, and AUT professional staff, will be available to advise, to represent and, if needed, to negotiate on behalf of members. We repeat our advice not to go into meetings where you may be asked to agree your future without being accompanied by a close colleague or Association representative.

It is obvious that, when the proposals are brought forward, the main area of attention will be plans for expansion. This is going to be a big, expensive and complex restructuring, and not one driven by simple considerations of economy. The university management’s publicity will doubtless put a positive spin on the extra resources being allocated for growth, investing in the future, backing winners, and heightening the university’s profile in key areas. However, APG is working on the principle, as the Vice-Chancellor made clear earlier at Academic Council, that gains in some areas must be paid eventually in large part out of losses elsewhere. Some of these losses may be universal - e.g. the discretionary element of pay. At some stage in the near future, individuals even in winning areas may be targeted for early retirement or severance arrangements. As we have said before, if APG wishes to enhance its chances of successfully achieving desirable outcomes, the university authorities - and the potential winners from the review - must recognise the need for sensitivity, flexibility and accommodation in the practical application. Success will also depend upon the soundness of the Provosts’ recommendations to APG, which may well become subjected to some sharp scrutiny.

Contact numbers for AUT officers are: Richard Jay, 3653; Duncan Mercer, 2501; Paul Hudson, 3157; Renee Prendergast, 3292; Max Goldstrom, c/o3089. Unfortunately, AUT’s National Council takes place at the end of next week and some officers will be there for at least part of the time. However, the link phone numbers with which officers will be in regular contact are 3089 and 3090. Keep us posted about any developments.

Paul Hudson has prepared an information pack to advise you about the implications of early retirement/severance. It can be obtained by ringing the above contact numbers.

 

Richard Jay