Issue No 5 July 2000
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Pay

Following the collapse of negotiations, the majority of the pre-1992 universities, including Queen’s have decided to pay 3%. You should get this money, back-dated from 1 April, in your July pay-packet. AUT regards this as only payment on account. The employers have also removed the bottom point of the Lecturer A scale, but not the corresponding point on the academic-related scales. There is no change in the settlement date.

There are rumours that the Russell group of universities may decide to pay more. This is one of the signs that the employers side is splintering and that national negotiations may soon disappear.

Another worrying feature is the continuing attempts by the employers to separate the academic-related staff from the academics and to group them with technical, clerical and manual staff. To show that this is an erroneous view, AUT is drafting a document "Building the academic team — A report on the contribution of academic related staff to the delivery of higher education". In this we show the many ways in which academic-related staff are now involved in learning. If you would like to give an example from your own experience, please contact Stephen Court at AUT HQ.

The Bett Report believed that academic-related staff were recruited in a local labour market and so should be grouped with technical, clerical and manual staff. The AUT has surveyed university personnel departments and has analysed job adverts. The results indicate that the majority of academic-related staff are recruited from national and international labour markets. Some recruitment of part-time staff is carried out in local labour markets, but this is related to the lack of mobility of all types of part-time staff. The national/international market should strengthen AUT’s campaign to keep the salaries of academic-related staff tied to those of academics.

Paul Hudson


H E Business in the Assembly

Student Finance

The consultation period has now ended and the responses are being analysed by DHFETE. The feedback we have been getting in this office is that the department and indeed some key members of the Assembly's HFETE Committee seem to be keen on the original Cubie proposals for Scotland.

Because of the Comprehensive Spending Review, the minister will have to make a decision over the next month or so. Robson Davison in DHFETE has indicated that September would be the absolute latest by which such a decision would have to be made. The HFETE Committee has requested copies of all the submissions made to the department and will be analysing them very soon.

Research Funding

Sean Farren announced in June (http://www.northernireland.gov.uk/press/hfe/000619b-hfe.htm) an extra £40 million for university research. In brief, the government is providing, over a four year period, £20m matched funding with the universities finding the rest from private sources. (This matching money is already on offer.) The funds will be allocated on a competitive basis by a NIHEC-serviced ‘international panel of experts’ under the chairmanship of Kenneth Bloomfield. The funds can be used for anything including buildings, equipment, staff etc. but will only be awarded to projects attaining an international level of quality. The first allocations are due in November this year.

The announcement was made in the assembly and the Hansard transcript of the debate can be found at http://www.ni-assembly.gov.uk/record/000619.htm. From the debate it is clear that Farren sees this very much as a first step to rectifying the shortfall in research funding for NI and he has also said he hopes it will be extended beyond the original four years. In the debate, a number of Assembly Members took part, all welcoming the money. Esmond Birnie did however raise the question of whether the ‘international standard’ criteria might prevent the funding of locally identified research needs.

HFETE Committee

The committee has identified two priority areas for its work this year. The first is student finance. As mentioned above the committee is monitoring very carefully what the department is doing on this.

Secondly they have launched an enquiry "To examine and make recommendations to improve the contribution of higher and further education and training (including university-based research and development) to Northern Ireland Industry." They aim to have taken expert advice before the summer recess with a view then to launching an in-depth consultation.

Supply Debate

The assembly held its supply debate on 12 June which is essentially a budget setting process. During the debate, a number of Members raised the question of tuition Fees and Student Loans. Alex Attwood also described a meeting with Gerry McKenna at which McKenna identified three issues as the key ones facing HE: overall HE funding (and specifically research funding), a funded increase in student numbers and the protection of intellectual property. The Hansard record can be found at http://www.ni-assembly.gov.uk/record/000612.htm

Other news

Sean Farren and his Irish counterpart announced extra financial support for EURES Cross-border Partnership. This body assists people who want to work and apply for jobs across the border. While not strictly relevant to our area, it does impact on the kinds of issues to do with cross-border working that we have touched upon in the past, notably with the IFUT (our Irish counterpart). The press release can be found at http://www.northernireland.gov.uk/press/hfe/000621h-hfe.htm

The Enterprise, Trade and Investment Committee is conducting an inquiry in to Strategy 2010 which we will be monitoring over the coming weeks for anything relevant to HE.

Written questions on higher education continue to be asked by Assembly members. The only answer of any real substance recently though has been on Student Enrolments across the border. The response to Mary Nelis’ question shows that the number of Republic students enrolled on both FE and HE courses in NI has declined over the last two years. In the case of HE, the number has dropped from 3,500 in 1997/98 to 2,500 in 1999/00.

Resources

The Assembly’s website has a range of resources available on it including Hansard reports from the previous day’s plenary sessions, all questions and answers (both oral and written), committee minutes and press releases. The main address is http://www.ni-assembly.gov.uk/index.htm

The Executive’s website is far less impressive, especially the DHFETE home page, http://www.northernireland.gov.uk/hfe.htm . However, they do maintain an up to date list of press releases http://www.northernireland.gov.uk/press/hfe.htm

Jonathan Whitehead, Regional Research Officer


Comprehensive Spending Review 2000

On 18 July the Chancellor Gordon Brown announced an extra £100M for higher education in England in 2001/02. Of this, £50M is for pay; £20M is for student access; the remaining £30M is for initiatives, such as the e-universities project, and the first foundation degree prototypes. The chancellor said this extra funding amounted to a 4.6% real terms increase in total (on 2000/01) – but this calculation includes an earlier additional sum of £295 million for 2001/02, which was announced last year. The statement covers only England and we must wait to see if analogous sums are paid in Northern Ireland.

Pay

The Education and Employment Secretary, David Blunkett, says the extra £50M for pay in England in 2001/02 is "to recruit and retain top-quality academic staff in an increasingly competitive global market for people and ideas". In return, Mr Blunkett wants "improvements in staff management". The designation of the recipients of the pay rise, and the implications of Mr Blunkett’s statement on management, are presently unclear.

If spread evenly, the extra £50M would give all academic staff a rise of 1.5%. Given that institutions are budgeting for up to a 3.5% increase in pay costs in 2001/02 (excluding incremental drift), the extra £50 million could mean a pay-rise well above inflation in that year. This would be a welcome change from two decades of pay rises in line with inflation, but would do little to provide the 30% catch-up in pay the association has asked for over the period of CSR2 (2001-04) to reduce recruitment and retention problems. An alternative way to spend the money is to implement equal pay for work of equal value. But, based upon the estimates in the Bett report, this would cost £250M in England. So you can see that the Government is making only a tiny step towards dealing with the pay problems of universities.

Access

The extra £20M in access funding for English HEIs in 2001/02 is "to allow universities to widen access through links with schools and colleges to attract able students from a broader range of backgrounds". The money is in addition to the extra £10M announced by Mr Blunkett at AUT’s May Council for bursaries for potential students from non-traditional HE backgrounds. In return for this funding, the DfEE has made a Public Service Agreement to "make significant year on year progress towards fair access to higher education". This progress will be measured by the Higher Education Funding Council for England’s performance indicators on student access. QUB scores very highly on access and so does UU.

‘Greenwich initiatives’

Two of the higher education initiatives announced by Mr Blunkett in his landmark Greenwich speech in February this year will benefit from the CSR settlement. The e-universities project, and prototypes for the two-year foundation degrees, will presumably share the remaining £30M for 2001/02 (the allocations have not been specified). Development work on the e-universities project is under way, and pilots for the foundation degrees will begin in 2001.

Impact on the unit of resource

The extra £50M for pay will hold steady in real terms the unit of resource per full-time equivalent student in England in 2001/02 – effectively ending 13 years of real terms cuts. This is a welcome change, and is in line with AUT’s recommendation in December 1999 of an annual increase in the unit of resource in line with inflation during CSR2 – provided there are similar increases in 2002-03 and 2003-04.

But spending will only draw level with inflation if student numbers for 2001/02 are not increased. However, if the Chancellor’s wish for 50% of young people going into higher education by 2010 is to be realised (this would be approximately 100,000 FTE undergraduates), then it is highly likely that there will be an increase in full-time equivalent undergraduate numbers during the period covered by the second CSR (2001/02 to 2003/04). The cost of an additional 10,000 full-time equivalent undergraduates in 2001/02 would be approximately £50M. This would therefore use up the extra £50M recurrent funding announced for HE in England.

What about 2002-04?

The Chancellor did not specify the settlement for the remaining two years of the comprehensive spending review period. This will apparently be announced in the autumn. Since the extra recurrent funding for England was specifically directed towards increasing pay to stop the brain drain, we should expect additional funding for pay in 2002-04.

Funding for science and knowledge transfer

The government’s UK science budget – which includes funding through the DTI’s Office of Science and Technology (OST) for the Research Councils, capital funding initiatives and the University Challenge Fund – is set to rise by 7.3% per year on average in real terms during CSR2. The new amount for 2001/02 is £1,776M, up by 7.1% on £1,658M, the previous figure for that year. The amounts for 2002/03 and 2003/04 will be £1,920M and £2,165M respectively in cash terms.

The increased science budget includes additional recently announced government funding for research. This covers the government’s contribution through the OST towards the £1 billion joint government-Wellcome Trust investment programme in research infrastructure, the Science Research Investment Fund (SRIF), for 2002/03 and 2003/04. The Wellcome Trust’s £225M contribution will be spent on the biomedical and related sciences only. The remaining £775M will be provided by the OST (£475M) and the Higher Education Funding Council for England (£300M). HEFCE funding for the SRIF – which will be allocated via the DfEE – is not included in the science budget. The SRIF will succeed the Joint Infrastructure Fund (JIF), which was also a joint government-Wellcome Trust initiative. As with the JIF, the SRIF funding will be allocated to universities on the basis of competitive bidding.

The increased science budget for 2001-04 also covers:

Conclusion

The headline figure of £50M extra funding for pay for higher education in England in 2001/02 does two things. It begins to address the pay shortfall over the past two decades for academic staff, and it brings to an end 13 years of year-on-year real terms cuts in the unit of resource. In taking this action, the Chancellor has shown that he has listened to some of the concerns of the sector: the AUT specifically called last year in its submission to the CSR for an end to the cut in the unit of resource. But its calls for a restoration of the 30% pay decline, and for money to meet the sector’s equal pay requirements, have not so far been addressed.

The continued real terms increases in funding for science, and in particular for research infrastructure, will be vital in maintaining and enhancing the UK’s science capability. AUT HQ has welcomed the increases for higher education, saying the Chancellor’s announcement "may one day be seen as the turning point in Britain's universities. Gordon Brown has made a start on reversing two decades of neglect and starvation suffered by Britain's universities".

However, a lot still hangs in the balance. We don’t know what the settlement will be for 2002-04. We don’t know any details about the settlements for the rest of the UK. And there is particular concern that future announcements of increased student numbers during 2001-04 will bring a return to real terms reductions in the unit of resource.

Based on AUT HQ document


The Report of the Women’s Forum

The Executive Report of this ad-hoc body has been published in QUB Update, and anyone interested in gender equality issues should get a full copy of the Report from the Equal Opportunities Unit. Although we would wish to be involved in the negotiation of relevant details, Belfast AUT welcomes the Report as long overdue. At QUB Senate (the governing body) the Report was "accepted as a framework for moving this important initiative forward". This does not imply accepting all the recommendations, and we will be monitoring the situation to see what actually is done. In the meanwhile the senior position of "Women’s Champion" is being internally advertised.

Paul Hudson

Produced by Belfast Association of University Teachers © July 2000