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Belfast AUT

Produced by Belfast Association of University Teachers Issue No 14 December 1999


Discretionary awards


Promotions Appeals

 NIHEC Seminar on the Funding of
University Research

AUT Council


 Senior salaries


 360 degree appraisal

 Student Complaints

 Staff Development and appraisal

 Committee elections


Discretionary Awards

The process for awarding discretionary payments and accelerated increments to academic staff is now well advanced. Final decisions will be made at meetings of the promotions committee in January and early February. Any payments will be backdated to October 1999. The decisions of the promotions committee with regard to these payments are final as there is no appeals mechanism. However, the University will review the process and its implementation at the end of the cycle. We would like to hear your comments so that we can inject them into the review process.

The interim scheme for awarding discretionary payments to academically related staff is due to be sent to department and school heads before the Christmas break for implementation in the new year. The scheme will involve the award a permanent increment or the use of a discretionary point at the top of each scale. We have not seen the final version of the documentation but we have commented on earlier versions. The intention is that the scheme should be used primarily as a means of rectifying anomalies. In the absence of some objective measures of performance, this is a sensible approach. AUT expressed reservations about aspects of the scheme and how it related to job evaluation. We understand that the issue we raised will be addressed in the course of implementation of the scheme. As in the case of academic staff, discretionary payments are to be made to individuals rather than teams. We felt that there were cases where awards could be more appropriately made to teams. The University did not feel that it was possible to address the issue of team work on this occasion but we have been given an undertaking that it will be considered for inclusion in any future scheme.


Promotions Appeals

We understand that the Promotions Appeals Committee has now concluded its business. Some of you will already have been informed about the outcome of your appeal — nine appeals were not upheld. One of the options open to the promotions appeals committee is to refer the matter back to the Promotions Review Committee. Three cases have been so referred and will be considered at the meetings of the Promotions Review Committee scheduled for January and early February. In addition four appeals were referred back to the Faculty for further consideration.

Renee Prendergast


AUT Council

AUT Council met on 15th December to analyse the recent pay dispute and to formulated the new pay claim. The delegates, somewhat reluctantly, backed AUT’s negotiating stance. Although there was considerable criticism of the National Executive’s role during the industrial action, the most critical motions were either withdrawn or defeated. However a motion censuring the Executive for lack of guidance and lack of information over the summer was passed.

The negotiations with UCEA on gender discrimination and on fixed-term contracts have made some progress in that statements of principle have been agreed.

The joint group with the other unions and UCEA on the Bett negotiating machinery is proving very difficult. The employers, backed by UNISON and NATFHE, are trying to separate the academic from the academic-related and non-academic staff. AUT is resisting this.

The joint submission with the CVCP to the government’s new Comprehensive Spending Review is not being pursued with enough diligence. AUT is making a separate submission in order to meet the government’s deadline.


Senior Salaries

The report of the Remuneration Committee to last Senate sheds light on how the salaries of senior staff in QUB are determined. The chairmen of university governing bodies collect together data on the salaries of all the various senior administrative posts. When making a new appointment QUB uses figures for the median and upper quartile salaries and makes an offer closer to the latter figure. So the offer is related to the market rate within universities, but this is often too low to secure candidates from outside. However, unlike the salaries for staff in general, the ability to pay does not enter in directly. Also if all universities made offers near the upper quartile, there would be a ratcheting effect not shared by others.

For the Pro-V-C’s, Deans and Senior Administrators in post, their pay rise for 1998-9 was determined as follows. They each had an appraisal interview which addressed the outcomes of their major tasks, developmental issues and the setting of major tasks and targets for the next twelve months. The interviews were conducted either by the Vice-Chancellor or, in certain cases a Pro-V-C. The Remuneration Committee then determined the review of salaries for each individual based on recommendations made by the Vice-Chancellor, with all the supporting appraisal documentation provided to them. The Committee determined for 1999 that the average salary review for this group should not exceed the average increases in salary for the Academic/Academic-Related group of staff in 1999.

A sub-committee comprising the Chair of Senate, the Honorary Treasurer and a Pro-Chancellor carried out the Vice-Chancellor’s review, incorporating 360 degree appraisal. Following this the Committee determined for 1999 that the Vice-chancellor’s salary should increase in line with the average for the professorial group of the University.

The recent large recruitment exercise has taught QUB management what the market rate is in some academic subjects, and they have begun to realise that existing staff, especially Readers and Professors, are under-paid even against other UK universities. There is vague talk of addressing this issue for QUB professors during this academic year, but we have not heard any details of how or when.

The university accounts reveal the number of high paid staff in Queen’s in the 1998-9 financial year. The remuneration shown excludes employer’s pension contributions but include NHS merit payments. NHS merit payments (£23K, £41K or £56K) are open to all NHS consultants, but are heavily concentrated in QUB Medical School; QUB does not pay the cost. The remuneration does not include income from private practice, consultancy or directorships outside of Queen’s or payment in kind. Virtually all those shown are medics, administrators or holders of high office. I would be surprised if more than a handful of ordinary non-clinical professors crept into these salary bands.

Salary (£)





















360 Degree Appraisal

When the Vice-Chancellor promised "360 degree appraisal" in the Whitla Hall nearly two years ago, most staff believed that they would soon have the opportunity to comment on the performance of their managers and the providers of services. Many hoped that they would be able to make their comments in a similar way to the student questionnaires on teaching. However George Bain was using "360 degree appraisal" in a technical sense and was referring to a specific type of appraisal.

So far "360 degree appraisal" has been applied only to the Vice-Chancellor himself. Generalising from this one instance, the process appears to be as follows. There are one or two appraisers including the line manager. They agree with the appraisee a list of about six peers, subordinates or customers whose views should be sought. These are interviewed separately by an appraiser and the views expressed are recorded under various headings. These are: main strengths, ways they could improve their performance, people (team working, interaction with all staff, sensitivity to customer service, management of own staff), time management (prioritising work, meeting deadlines, tolerance of stress, long-term planning), communication skills (oral, written, group, acting as a representative) and personal achievement (setting of high standards, tenacity, developing solutions to problems, keeping up to date with developments). The appraisers then use these anonymous reports in the appraisal interview.

I understand that it is the intention to extend the application of "360 degree appraisal" this academic year to Pro-V-C’s and possibly Deans and senior administrators, but that it will be at least a further year before it reaches the level of Head of School.

Paul Hudson


Staff Development and Appraisal

Staff will all be aware that the University proposes to revamp the appraisal process during the coming year. We had a preliminary meeting with personnel on this some time ago. We agreed with the University that the current scheme does not deliver on staff development and that this deficiency needed to rectified. We reiterated AUT’s commitment to a developmental approach to appraisal. We also emphasised our concern about workloads and requested that the University agree to a scheme for the management of workloads as part of any revamp of appraisal.

At present evaluation of teaching as part of the appraisal process mainly takes the form of student evaluation. These evaluations are confidential to the individual although line managers and appraisers have access to them. AUT recognises that, by itself, student appraisal is not an adequate method of teaching evaluation and we are willing to discuss the development of a more systematic approach as part of an overall review of the appraisal process. We hear on the grape vine that, partly to impress QAA panels, line managers have been extending teaching evaluation in various ways, e.g. peer review of teaching. We want to assure staff that no such changes have been discussed with or agreed by AUT. Consequently, while we have no objection in principle to the various experiments that are taking place at school level, we want to emphasise that participation is voluntary. Line managers should convince staff of the value of their proposals which of course is good management practice anyway.

Renee Prendergast



The David Bates building has been decaying for years and most of the staff offices have not been painted since it was erected in 1972. However Mathematics had a Teaching Quality Assessment last month. A week before the assessment team was due there was a tour of inspection by the V-C. Suddenly equipment and maintenance problems that had been around for as much as ten years were tackled. The TQA team were greeted by the smell of carpet adhesive and fresh paint, but it is doubtful that they were fooled.

The David Bates Building is approaching the end of its economic life, but staff there are not pressing for its replacement. This is because they have heard of the new accommodation offered to Nursing.

When Nursing was taught in nursing colleges attached to hospitals the standard of accommodation varied widely, but in general the nursing tutors had individual rooms. When they transferred to Queen’s they were accommodated in the former College Park Physics building. Here rooms that previously had contained a single Lecturer had to be used by 3 or 4 Nurse Tutors. They put up with this crowding because they were promised purpose built accommodation in about a year’s time. When QUB had negotiated the Nursing contract it had been on the basis that we would not need new buildings, but it was later found that the College Park building was expensive to maintain.

The new Nursing building is a wing attached to the Medical Biology Centre and it will be ready in early January. The ground floor has practical rooms equipped like wards. The middle floor has offices for the management and for the clerical staff. It is the top floor that is causing the anger. Here it is proposed to accommodate more than 80 teaching staff in a single open-plan room. Admittedly it is a big room (big enough to be a Medical Library?) but the floor area per member of staff is low. The ordinary staff had not been consulted about this arrangement and were horrified when they found out last month. The layout is suitable for a telephone call-centre rather than for academic work. Each person has a small L-shaped desk with a computer and they are grouped in fours with low partitions between the desks. Somewhere in the room a member of staff will have a filing cabinet and half a bookcase. Even these inadequate resources are an improvement on what was originally planned.

The nursing staff feel that this office furniture is totally inadequate for their work, and they fear that the noise and visual disturbance will prevent concentration. Because the room also has to contain printers, photocopiers and two small meeting areas, it is claimed that there is no room for any more furniture — not even chairs for visitors. Although bookable interview rooms have been provided for consultations with students, it is felt that these are inadequate.

We know of no other university using open plan accommodation for teaching staff. The management response is that Nurse Tutors spend time away from their desks supervising practical work. There is some truth in this, but the same accommodation is being offered to staff on ordinary lecturing contracts. Obviously the accommodation is completely inadequate for anyone doing research and many of the Nurse Tutors also want to build up their research profile in order to transfer to lecturing contracts. Feeling is so high amongst the nursing staff that they are not packing up to move. They feel that they are being given an inferior status, and doubt that this would have occurred if they were not predominately female. Belfast AUT has had meetings with the Nursing management. But so far progress has not been sufficient to resolve the problem. Your Nursing colleague may need your support in the New Year. It is important that they receive your support. Otherwise we may find that all new academic accommodation is open plan.

Meanwhile at the other end of the pecking order, our new Registrar plans to move into a set of offices in Lanyon South next to the Vice-Chancellor’s suite. Rumour has it that this refurbishment will cost £100K. This refurbishment means the displacement of accommodation used by TEFL and Continuing Education (and the AUT office!). We hear that Continuing Education may be temporarily housed in the College Park building if and when the nurses move out.

Paul Hudson


NIHEC Seminar on the Funding of University Research

The Northern Ireland Higher Education Council NIHEC has issued a consultation document on the research funding allocation method to be applied to the Northern Ireland universities. At present, quality related QR funds are allocated using the methodology developed by HEFCE for England. While NIHEC believes that research funding in Northern Ireland should continue to be related to research quality, quite rightly, it questions whether a system geared to a large number of diverse institutions is appropriate in the context of Northern Ireland where only two institutions are funded for research.

While the mid-November NIHEC seminar was intended to address issues relating to the methodology of funding allocation, the main focus turned out be the inadequacy of the funds available for research. Broadly speaking the facts are as follows, R&D activity in Northern Ireland is low by UK and European standards accounting for just over 1% of GDP. Just over half of this activity takes place in the private sector and about a third in the Universities. On a per capita basis, spending on R&D in business and the universities is much lower than the UK average. In the universities, this is partly due to the fact that the block grant accounts for a higher proportion of total funding in the Northern Ireland than elsewhere. More importantly, there is deficiency in the size of the block grant itself. During the 1990s, this has been progressively cut in real terms with the result that the annual research grant to the two local universities is now 30% smaller in real terms than it was in the early 1990s. By comparison, in the GB universities, funding has increased by 9% in real terms over the same period.

While the funding of university research is no longer directly related to student numbers, there is a clear link between the volume of research and the size of the university system. It is also reasonable to suggest that a managed expansion of the university sector would have knock on effects in terms of the enhancement of research quality by increasing critical mass and by drawing new blood into the system.

AUT welcomes the joint efforts being made by our Vice Chancellor and the Vice Chancellor of the University of Ulster to draw attention to research funding deficit — they have sent a joint document to the new minister and have met him. Under the auspices of NIAC, we will also be lobbying on this issue.

Renee Prendergast



Anyone interested in what should be happening in Queen’s this year should get hold of the colour booklet "Major Tasks: Goals and Objectives 1999-2000". It lists 4 End Goals, 17 Objectives and 53 Tasks for the top management of QUB. Then the Dean of Engineering has 5 Objectives and 12 Tasks and the Dean of Medicine has 4 Objectives and 20 Tasks. The Dean of Humanities has 5 objectives and 18 Tasks, the Dean of LSE has 7 Objectives and 18 Tasks, while the Dean of Science and Agriculture has the most work with 7 Objectives and 24 Tasks. Finally the academic support areas share 31 Objectives and 121 Tasks.

Paul Hudson



Strange word is it not? I suppose to those of my generation raised on the Victor and similar magazines it conveys images of Lancasters, bouncing bombs and heroic moustachioed RAF ‘chaps’ babbling pointlessly about ‘wizard shows’. To younger generations it probably conjures up images of darkened rooms full of computers where intense young people examine satellite data to try and identify the holiday caravan of some Serbian leader prior to a surgical air strike! Yet this word in creeping into every day usage in this university in a manner that has little relevance to Biggles enthusiasts such as myself or military technology freaks.

Last year we were treated to the Academic Plan (which misleadingly was driven by research rather than academic values and displayed precious little evidence of planning) where colleagues were ‘targeted’. Now I'm sure that at no stage were management seriously considering air strikes against ‘under-performers’, although I can imagine certain individuals arguing this would be cheaper than PRCS deals, but it was a strange choice of word. Certainly in terms of the accuracy of their ‘target accusation intelligent analysis’ let’s be grateful they were not running the campaign against Serbia, as Italy would have had a rough time.

Following this however we now face new ‘targets’ in the form of goals for senior staff and administrative units within the university. Why do I feel troubled? These objectives are to revised (changed?) each year; our strategic planners have forgotten how much harder it is to hit a moving target. Of course such changes will be in line with the Universities Mission (more images of air-strikes?) Statement so everything will be okay?

Why do the powers that create such ideas not simply properly define our jobs and leave us in peace to try and perform them within the culture of inadequate resources and low moral they have so skilfully created? At the end of the day, I suppose we should be grateful merely to be set targets unlike our colleagues who became targets!

John Lynch


Student Complaints

Belfast AUT Officers have become concerned about the application of the Students Complaints Procedures recently adopted by the University. While these are intended to be about resolving problems of poor service, our experience is that the hearing of a complaint can become a quasi-disciplinary case against an individual and distressful for the member of staff concerned. We are currently engaging in discussions with the Academic Council Office to improve the implementation of procedures. We advise any member who faces such a complaint to contact us immediately and not to agree to any impromptu changes in the procedure.


Committee Elections

Although the local Officers and General Members are elected at our AGM in June, the constituency representatives are elected at this time of year by single transferable vote. The constituencies are:

1 The Faculty of Humanities,

2 The Faculty of Legal, Social and Educational Sciences,

3 The Faculty of Science and Agriculture,

4 The Faculty of Engineering,

5 The Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences,

6 Administrative Staff,

7 Library Staff,

8 Research Staff,

9 Computer Staff

If you have any doubts as to which constituency you are in you should consult me.

Each nomination for each constituency shall be made from the membership of that constituency by two members of that constituency and must be accompanied by the written consent of the nominee. It should be sent to me by noon on 17th January 2000. We are particularly anxious for nominations for Humanities, and for Legal, Social and Educational Sciences since we have vacancies there.

Paul Hudson

George Dunn, Assistant Secretary