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Wednesday 29th March at 1.05 p.m.
121 Lanyon South
1. Business for AUT May Council. This includes motions that we might wish to submit and possible topics are resources for nursing education, and the need for independent financial advice to members.
2. Criteria for Evaluating Teaching for Promotion Purposes. The article "Messages from Another Planet" in our last edition has provoked strong reactions for and against.
3. Comments on Last Year’s Pay Campaign. AUT nationally is collecting comments on last year’s campaign and suggestions of how our campaigning can be improved.
4. An Update on National and Local Issues such as our pay claim, job evaluation, the Institute of Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, national negotiating machinery, the costing and pricing of research, discretionary payments.
Some people regard a mission statement as grandiose but meaningless verbiage, others scrutinise every word to see if we are making promises that we can not keep. Whatever your attitude, you should be aware that, subject to the approval of Academic Council and Senate, QUB is to have a new mission statement.
"To provide the widest possible access to learning through international excellence in teaching and research in an environment of equality, tolerance and mutual respect, thereby enhancing educational, economic and cultural development in Northern Ireland and elsewhere."
The practical question is, "What are we supposed to do now that is different to what we have been doing?"
Anyone who can get hold of this 32 page document should read it carefully. The first question that comes to mind is, "What is the connection with the Academic Planning and the Research Planning processes that are currently being finalised?" The answer appears to be that the outcomes of these processes will eventually find their place in the Institutional Strategy as it is periodically updated. As it presently stands the document is a mixture of the continuation of current projects and a costed wish-list of projects that QUB would like to undertake if we had had the money. The total cost of all these projects in the five year period is £209M. One of the prime purposes of the document appears to be fund raising in that it is a convenient means of showing potential donors the type of benefits that a donation could bring.
The projects are grouped under Learning and Teaching, Research and Development, Student Experience, and Contribution to the Community. They are too numerous to be listed here but each one has a description and a timetable of expenditure. They include such things as JIF bids whose fate and funding will be decided externally. Lanyon II hardly figures in the money flows because the real work on it would take place after this period. Major capital projects include a new Medical Library and a new high-tech library to replace the Main and Science libraries. There is also a proposal to increase expenditure on books and periodicals.
The problem is finding the money. Some projects would attract specific grants and other funding. But even after allocating £37,351K of internal funds (current expenditure and decrease in reserves), borrowing £14,667K, and raising £7,625K through the development foundation, we still have about £79M unfunded. So, unless our fund-raising exceeds our wildest dreams, many of these projects cannot be achieved in the timescale envisaged. Still it is nice to dream.
Details of how the next research assessment exercise will be conducted can be found on the web-sites www.rae.ac.uk and www.hefce.ac.uk Following motions from Belfast AUT and Liverpool, the national AUT made a submission on the equal opportunity shortcoming of the previous exercises, especially the failure to take into account maternity leave, and some improvements have resulted for the present round.
RAE 5/99 p12 para 2.18 says ‘The situation of staff who have taken maternity leave or other career breaks, who hold part-time contracts, who are disabled or who have been absent for long periods through illness (where this is indicated by HEIs) will be taken into account in reaching overall judgements of quality where it is indicated in submissions.’ It also says ‘The situation of junior staff or those who are relatively new to a research career (for example, more senior staff who have recently taken up an academic post from industry or a professional career) should be taken into account in reaching overall judgements of quality.’ In para 2.25 it says ‘¼ It is important that the panel uses its judgement, taking into account all of the evidence presented, to distinguish cases where low productivity reflects low quality from those where there are genuine and acceptable reasons for low productivity." And finally, in para 2.26, ‘There should be no automatic penalty for failure to cite four items of research output: each case must be looked at on its own merits."
If you believe that you could benefit from any of these provisions you should contact your head of department.
Belfast AUT have had discussions with the management on the implementation of "Costing and Pricing". The proposals stem from the Government’s desire to see that the money granted for research is spent as intended. One of the major costs in research is the time of academic staff and so the government wants to know what we actually do.
This has led to the ‘Transparency Review Requirements’ of which four are of particular relevance;
The requirements will be a condition of Government funding, so there is no avoiding them. On the positive side more accurate information on costs will enable QUB to price its bids for research projects more realistically. Of more dubious value is the desire of some people to gather such detailed information (and to arbitrarily allocate so many shared costs) as to be able to attach a price to each module. Queen’s has been included in 23 research active institutions in the second phase of the implementation. This means that in August/September 2000 all the University’s academic staff will complete the single sheet time allocation Schedule for the 1999-2000 academic year. This asks for a breakdown of time similar to that included on the appraisal form. What is asked for is the percentage of time spent on activities, rather than the actual hours worked. (Perhaps it would be too embarrassing to known how long hours the staff put in.) There is also talk of a diary exercise over a two week period every five years.
Staff will not welcome the extra paperwork but at present the management seems content to keep it to a minimum. The AUT Officers share members anxieties about the way that the information could be put to other uses and will monitor the process carefully. Any abuses should be reported to us.
AUT Update is suppose to be the fast method for headquarters communicating with the members, but it still takes more than two weeks from going to press to reach members. From now on an electronic version will be published on the web (www.aut.org.uk) at least a week before printed copies can be made available.
We are also anxious to build up a complete list of members’ e-mail addresses. If you have not done so already please send us your e-mail address at firstname.lastname@example.org
Right, I know that I mucked up 27 April and 30 May on the Belfast AUT Wall Planner, but I would welcome other suggestions for improvements. There are plenty of spare copies of the Wall Planner and of the CD case calendar if any one wants some. Just phone ext 3090.
The tri-annual valuation of the USS pension fund revealed a surplus. Following discussions with representatives of the Vice-Chancellors and the AUT, the management Committee of USS decided to make the following improvements in benefits:
Death in Service The payment has been increased from 2.5 times annual salary to 3 time annual salary. Don’t assume that you only benefit by dying; you may now feel able to reduce your life cover from other sources. The maximum permitted by the Inland Revenue is 4 times salary, so those members who have taken out additional life insurance using AVC's should check with their that they are not exceeding the Inland Revenue limits.
Pensioners Besides the annual April uprating of pensions in line with RPI, there will be an additional uprating of 1%.
Widow(er)’s Reduction If the spouse of a dead member was 15 or more years younger than that member, the widow(er)’s pension was actuarially reduced. This reduction will no longer take place.
The University currently operates four different job evaluation schemes for manual, clerical, technical and academically related staff. It is now looking at the possibility of moving to a single scheme which would cover all except the research and academic grades. There is also concern about problems with the Hay job evaluation scheme as currently implemented. A few weeks ago, presentations on three job evaluation schemes were made to university management and trade union representatives. The schemes in question were HERA, Hay and Equate. HERA is a competencies based scheme which was originally designed to cover all jobs in the University sector from porters to professors. It is being considered by a number of Universities but none have implemented it yet. Many of you will be familiar with the Hay scheme already. Its main advantage is that it is widely used outside the University sector and so could provide a useful basis for pay comparisons. The scheme has evolved since it was first implemented here with more emphasis now being placed on generic job descriptions and job families. Like the HERA scheme, the Equate scheme presented is a computer based system designed for Universities. This does not so much remove the need for judgement as change the point at which judgement has to be exercised. This scheme was used by the Director of Human Resources in his previous post at De Montfort.
The presentations offered the opportunity for wide discussion of the pros and cons of the current and potential job evaluation schemes. Much further discussion and negotiation will be required before any final decision is made. We will keep you posted.