Issue No 9 November 2000
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Mass Meeting 1 p.m. Tues. 5 Dec.

Assemble at the Lanyon War-memorial and go to the Speak-Easy Bar, Students’ Union.

We will be acting jointly with other campus unions and our theme for the day will be university funding and its impact on staff and students. Details of our plans are being finalised and further information will be on posters and e-mail.

In the morning representatives of the campus unions from QUB and UU will go to Stormont and will present a letter to the Higher and Further Education Minister, Dr Sean Farren, and/or the Chair of the Assembly Committee for Higher and Further Education, Training and Employment, Dr Esmond Birnie.

The mass meeting will involve all the main trade unions in QUB with representatives from the Open University in Belfast and from the Jordanstown and Belfast Campuses of UU as well. There will be speakers from the unions plus any politicians that we can entice.

AUT will also be launching its petition that day and copies and details will be sent to you later.

You signed the pledge, so come!

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The Funding Campaign

You all have received a letter from the General Secretary explaining AUT’s "Building Higher Education for the Next Generation" funding campaign. We hope that you all have signed the pledge and returned it to AUT HQ. Some of you may have regarded the pledge as rather trivial, but the longest journey starts with the first step, and in the run up to the general election our funding campaign will have many facets.

This year the employers negotiating body, UCEA, offered the same percentage pay rise to all types of staff in both the old and the new universities, then they refused to negotiate and imposed their offer. This has been their behaviour for several years and it makes a mockery of the careful arguments marshalled by the various unions and completely ignores the many urgent problems facing particular groups of staff. Those unions that negotiate nationally their conditions of service are especially angry at being unable to make any progress, and feel that they are effectively de-recognised for this type of negotiation. They have balloted for industrial action starting on 5 December in defence of these rights. AUT has never negotiated conditions of service nationally and so could not legitimately join in this industrial action. We are completely sympathetic with the other unions’ concerns, but believe that all our plights stem from the chronic underfunding of the universities.

We will be campaigning on funding since this is the only way to sufficient funds to correct the relative erosion of academic and related salaries. However, our employers must share the blame. In 1976-7 pay expenditure was 70% of the total expenditure of UK higher education institutions; by 1998-9 it had fallen to only 58%, so the employers have economised most on people. There has been a greatly increased workload. A report from the LSE says, "In the 1990s, higher education staff productivity has increased three times as much as the service sector average, 6.5% per annum against the service sector average of 2.2%." Over that period pay in universities has barely keep pace with inflation, while the workforce in general has seen substantial increases in the standard of living. In addition universities have considerable inequalities in the employment of ethnic minorities and women and Sir Michael Bett estimated that it would cost about £0.3 billion per annum to ensure equal pay for work of equal value.

The preceding applies to all types of university staff. Now for some figures for the academic and related staff. "With 1% of the world’s population, we undertake 5% of the world’s research, produce 8% of the publications and receive 9% of the citations " — Lord Sainsbury. In 1980-1 the student-staff ratio in UK universities was 8.9; by 1998-9 it had risen to 16.9; over that period the pupil-teacher ratio in UK schools remained at 18.2. Between 1981-2 and 2000-1 non-clinical academic and related staff in the old universities have seen a real increase in pay of a total of only 4.9%. Over the same period clinical academics (who are paid like NHS doctors) have had a real increase of 26.7%;, school teachers, 27.1%; and MP’s 51.0%. Over the five years for which we have data, the increase in average vice-chancellors’ salaries has been 12.2% more than that for their academic staff.

Nation-wide, demonstrative activity will go ahead on 5 December involving all campus unions and supported by the National Union of Students. Details of local activities appear at the front of this newsletter. However, we cannot ignore the public impact of David Blunkett’s funding announcement and this will be taken into account in our message to the public although the main features of our campaign will remain. A petition planned to start on 5 December. This will now be directed towards vice-chancellors and will press them to support urgent national negotiations. Signatures should be collected within institutions to convey the views of staff and students to the vice-chancellor.

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Actions by Other Unions

EIS, Unison, Natfhe, MSF, TGWU, and GMB have all balloted their members concerning various forms of industrial action over pay, national negotiations and funding. Although MSF and NATFHE secured a majority in favour of strike action, it is unlikely that any form of strike will take place on 5th December. Instead all those unions will embark on action short of a strike, for which they secured large majorities. The form of action will vary but is expected to include working to contract and overtime bans. We advise members not to undertake any work which is normally the work of a member of another trade-union, and to ensure that health and safety arrangements are maintained and, if safe working conditions are not properly ensured, then members should not put themselves, colleagues or students at risk by continuing to work in such circumstances. We rightly feel that we are under paid, but colleagues in other trade-unions are paid even less, so please show them sympathy and support.

In the new universities Natfhe intend to withhold examination marks and not participate in exam boards or similar formal meetings. No AUT member should take on any work that a Natfhe member has refused to do in pursuit of this action. If you are already involved in examining in a new university (e.g. as an external examiner) you should consult AUT HQ.

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The Funding Announcement

The funding announcement by David Blunkett on 16 November applies only to higher education in England. There is no indication at present of what extra funding will be available in Northern Ireland and under what conditions. That is why we must apply pressure at Stormont. The announcement is far short of the extra money that Sir Michael Bett calculated was needed, and, as is common today, includes money already announced. However, overall the announcement is extremely good news for higher education; it shows that the government has responded to the campaign for extra funding in which AUT played a major role. Although ‘almost an extra billion’ makes impressive reading for public consumption, it does not meet the scale of the problems facing higher education, which have resulted from a decade of under-funded expansion. Therefore our campaigning objectives which seek full support for higher education still need to be pursued.

The increases in funding in England in cash terms are £412M for 2001/2 followed by £268M for 2002/3 and £298M for 2003/4. This will result in a total increase in real terms of nearly 10%. However higher education is expected to recruit an additional 45,000 students next year with further expansion planned in the following two years. Also some of the funding will be earmarked for foundation degrees and the e-university. Increases in Access and Hardship Funds are included in the total together with £15M for other measures targeted at the most vulnerable students.

David Blunkett said: "I recognise that staff recruitment and retention, equal opportunities and human resource development are central to providing a world class higher education. There will be £50m in 2001-02, rising to £110m in 2002-03 and £170m in 2003-04, to support increases in academic and non-academic pay. This will be a something for something reform, to help institutions to recruit and retain the key staff they need to improve further the quality of teaching and learning, and help modernise management and reward systems, on top of any pay increase which universities negotiate. In return, I expect institutions to have clear and satisfactory plans as to how they will use this substantial funding to enhance quality and modernise management of the sector. These plans will be scrutinised in detail by the Funding Council." If distributed evenly these sums would result in an increase in real pay of a total of about 5% by the end of the 3-year period, so the increased funding is far from that needed to solve the pay problems. We do not yet know the details of Blunkett’s "something", but it sounds as though the government wants the money targeted towards the pay of management and senior professors, towards a few subjects with the worse recruitment difficulties, and towards even more discretionary pay. The AUT has already contacted UCEA seeking a proper pay increase for the current year.

Paul Hudson

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H E Business in the Assembly

Student Finance

The HFETE Committee published its report on Student Finance in Northern Ireland on 12 October. Its recommendations are broadly similar to the Cubie proposals in Scotland and include:

As part of its report, the Committee also published the research papers it had commissioned on the following issues: Cubie; Tuition Fees; International Models of Student Finance; Graduate Earnings; HE in FE; Student Flows; and The Effects on Students of Paid Employment. The full report can be found at http://www.ni-assembly.gov.uk/highereduc/report1-00r.htm

[The assembly subsequently debated the report on 21 November. Sean Farren welcomed the report but said, "However, I remain of the view that there are significant questions which are not adequately addressed in the report. In particular the issue of equality for students studying outside of Northern Ireland; for those partaking in part time courses and those thousands of students at colleges of further education."]

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2001-02 Budget

The 17th October saw the NI Executive’s budget proposals for 2001-02 announced in the Assembly by the Finance Minister. The proposals represent a 5.6% increase in real terms with higher education receiving an 8.5% real terms increase. Full details of how DHFETE plans to implement this increase are not yet available.

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Programme for Government

The Executive has also announced its draft Programme for Government for the coming year 2001-02. Within it, 5 Executive Priorities have been identified, of which Investing in Education and Skills is one. Specific proposals of interest to the HE community include:

There are also a number of interesting proposals in the Securing a Competitive Economy section:

The draft Programme can be seen at http://www.northernireland.gov.uk/pfg/contents.htm

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£4.5m Extra Funding for University Teaching

Sean Farren yesterday announced a £4.5m package for modernising teaching and learning facilities at QUB and UU. The projects it will support include a new Medical Library and the modernisation of 12 lecture theatres with IT equipment at Queen’s and the establishment of an Open and Distance Learning network linking 12 regional centres with Ulster. The press release can be found at http://www.northernireland.gov.uk/press/hfe/001102b-hfe.htm

Jonathan Whitehead 3 November 2000

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The 31st October Senate Meeting

Senate is the governing body of QUB and has about 50 members. The V-C and Pro-V-C’s are ex officio members. There are 11 other internal Senators elected by various groups of staff. The bulk of Senate are lay members most of whom have a managerial or professional background. Most are graduates of Queen’s, but they graduated in a very different era and many are retired.

This meeting reminded me of W. S. Gilbert’s description of the House of Lords because it, "did nothing in particular, and did it very well."

The first important item of business was the V-C presenting "Major Tasks: goals and Achievement 1999-2000 and "Key Objectives: End Goals and Supporting Goals 2000-1". This was along the lines of the presentation which he later gave to staff in the Whitla Hall. Some members of Senate complained that they had had too little time to absorb the 50 pages of tables for this item besides the numerous other Senate papers. The Vice-Chancellor had been very positive in his presentation and this was too much for one internal Senator, who gave Senate the facts of life in present day universities. He spoke of the shrinking unit of resource for teaching, of the increasing student-staff ratios, of the problems for students due to needing to earn money, and of the decline of academic salaries compared to other professions. This sparked off a lively discussion in which other people expanded on the difficulty of attracting talented people to academic life. One lay senator wanted to know if the University was content to award annual pay rises of about 3%. The debate lasted more than an hour and covered most of the problems facing the university today.

Most of the other business was passed over quite rapidly, including the financial forecasts. We then came to the report of the Remuneration Committee which sets the salaries of senior staff. Pro-V-C’s, Deans and administrative Directors have individual pay awards based on their annual appraisal by the V-C or Registrar. On average the pay rise for this group did not exceed the projected average increase in professorial salaries in 2000 (i.e. 3% plus about 3% catch-up that professors on average will get under new Professorial Salary Review Scheme). The lay members of the committee had also decided on a similar rise for the V-C. A lay Senator asked how the initial salaries of administrative Directors etc. were set, and was told that, using data for the post from other universities, QUB paid in the upper quartile. One lay Senator was bold enough to ask what these individuals were actually paid! The Vice-Chancellor replied that the V-C’s salary was stated in the annual accounts and that these also tabulated the number of staff paid over £50K in £5K bands. In this discussion it was clear that many members of Senate have only a hazy idea of what ordinary academic and related staff are paid and I will give them details.

Paul Hudson