Issue No 8 October 2000
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General Meeting

AUT headquarters have moved the meeting of AUT Council forward from January to 12 December so that we can make our annual pay claim early. In order that we can submit motions to AUT Council, if you so desire, we have brought forward our General Meeting from 15 November.

1.05 p.m. Wednesday 1 November
in G06 Peter Froggatt Centre

Agenda

  1. Approval of Belfast AUT accounts.

  2. The Salary Campaign.

  3. Business for AUT Winter Council, including Motions.

  4. Nominations for elections to National Executive and various TUC meetings.

  5. Any Other Business.

Paul Hudson

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AUT National President Dies

David Green, our President for 2000/1 passed away in Bristol Royal Infirmary after a long battle with cancer on 14 September, just 14 days into his presidency. A full obituary appears in the national AUT Update. Not only will he be greatly missed by his colleagues on AUT national Executive and at Bristol, but his demise has left a great gap. The hope was that in these circumstances the President-Elect would take office early, but she is unable to switch to full-time duties nearly a year before she had planned. Trade-union elections are governed by law and so AUT is calling a election for the casual vacancy of President. If this is contested the person elected will not take office till nearly March. Attempts are being made to find a former President who could be consensus candidate, but very few people can drop everything and go off to London for the rest of the academic year.

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Black and Ethnic Minority Seminar

AUT is holding a seminar for black and ethnic minority members only. It is on Saturday 2 December at the Thistle Birmingham and travel and subsistence expenses will be paid. The primary aims of the event will be to develop a support network that can offer advice to members and assist black activist in becoming more involved in the union. Further information can be obtained from Diana Clarke (e-mail: diana.clarke@aut.org.uk) at AUT head office (phone #6 223). Applications must be made via me by 3 November.

Paul Hudson

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H E Business in the Assembly

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Student Finance

We are expecting the Department to publish its proposals on Student Finance within the next few weeks. Meanwhile, the Assembly's HFETE Committee has been very active on this issue. It held a video conference with Andrew Cubie on 5th Sept, met with DHFETE officials on the 14th and then with Bob Osborne and others from the Centre for Research on Higher Education on 19th Sept from whom they also commissioned research on this issue. This is expected to be published shortly. Press releases on these meetings can be found at http://www.ni-assembly.gov.uk/67.htm. The committee is due to finalise its response on student finance on the 26th Sept. Press reports indicate that they are to recommend a Scottish-style system along with a 5,000 places expansion. Finally, at their meeting on 14th Sept it was agreed to ask for an Assembly debate on Student Finance (http://www.ni-assembly.gov.uk/highereduc/000914.htm).

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Education and Training for Industry

The HFETE committee has launched an enquiry on this subject "to examine and make recommendations to improve the contribution of further and higher education and training (including university based R&D) to Northern Ireland industry". A number of organisations have been invited to submit evidence, including AUT. The first evidence session was with John Simpson on 22nd June (http://www.ni-assembly.gov.uk/highereduc/moe000622.htm). It would seem that there is some degree of concern that the remit of the enquiry is too broad.

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Programme for Government and 2000/01 Budget

Full details of the budget allocations for individual departments have not yet been made available. However, both Sean Farren on 6th July and DHFETE officials on 21st September have briefed the HFETE committee on the process. In the meantime, there has been some discussion around the Programme for Government and legislative proposals for the current session. 21 bills were identified for the current legislative programme in the Assembly on 11th September, none of which are related to HE.

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Strategy 2010

The Assembly’s Enterprise, Trade and Investment committee is continuing its enquiry in to Strategy 2010. This included a public meeting at Queen’s on 13th September at which the V-C gave evidence. The committee expect to complete their evidence taking by the end of October. See http://www.ni-assembly.gov.uk/pressnotices/pn141-00.htm and http://www.ni-assembly.gov.uk/pressnotices/pn135-00.htm for further information.

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Cross Border Issues

There have been a couple of cross-border developments in the education field. A North/South Protocol has been signed by the bodies representing Further Education colleges in the Republic and in NI. It covers issues such as sharing of good practice but also, interestingly, mutual recognition of qualifications (see http://www.northernireland.gov.uk/press/hfe/000920f-hfe.htm). Secondly, Sean Farren and his counterpart from the Republic, Michael Woods, praised the work of the University of Ulster and Monaghan Education Centre at a graduation ceremony for 20 teachers on their joint MSc: http://www.northernireland.gov.uk/press/hfe/000918f-hfe.htm.

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Other News Items

Jonathan Whitehead 25 September 2000

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TUC Conferences

AUT elects four members to attend the TUC Women’s Conference on 14-16 March in Scarborough. It also elects two representatives to attend the TUC Black Workers’ Conference on 27-29 April. Similarly it elects two representatives to attend the TUC Lesbian and Gay Conference on 5-6 July. Nominations are made by the Local Association and anyone interested should contact me. Nominations must reach HQ by 17 November and should be accompanied by a statement not exceeding 150 words of past service within the association and special interests.

Paul Hudson

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Update Goes On-line

The nationally produced AUT members’ news magazine Update is now available on-line. It can be downloaded in two formats. Pdf version: www.aut.org.uk/news/update/Update68_October2000.pdf or text version: www.aut.org.uk/news/update/Update68_October2000.txt

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Information Services – Reorganisation

In January 1999, the then Registrar, Mr John Town set up a committee to assess service provision by the library, computing services and audio-visual services. The committee reported in January 2000. One of the main recommendations of the committee was that the University, as a matter of urgency, should address the lack of integration between the functional units falling within information services. Towards this end, a new director of information services was to be appointed with the remit of determining and implementing the structure which would best meet the needs of staff and students.

Mr Norman Russell, the former librarian, has been appointed to this post. He has been looking at ways in which other institutions have organised their provision of information services and how these might be adapted to meet the needs of this university. Much of the detail remains to be worked out. At this stage, it proposed to put in place 6 assistant directors with responsibility for the following areas: infrastructure, research support, teaching and learning, administrative support, user services and resources management. Together with Norman Russell, the six assistant directors would constitute the management team and would have the responsibility for working out the details of the restructuring and how they would be implemented.

Belfast AUT welcomes proposals aimed at improving the information services available to staff and students in the university. We have had preliminary consultation with management on the restructuring and have had the opportunity to discuss some issues relating to the impact of re-organisation on the staff directly involved. We understand that the new assistant director posts will be evaluated by the Hay Panel and that, in the first instance, they will be advertised internally. It is clear that some staff who are currently members of the senior management team in the three service areas will not find a place in the smaller team envisaged for the new integrated service. We have received assurances from the Director that he does not envisage any significant changes in the overall job size of the staff concerned given that there will be new tasks to be accommodated. We have also been assured that the grades and salary levels of the staff concerned will not be affected. AUT welcomes these reassurances. If, however, staff feel that their position is being undermined as a result of reorganisation, we recommend that they contact us so that we can assist in resolving any difficulties that arise.

The proposed re-organisation is in its early stages and no doubt there are many pitfalls ahead. It is our view that with adequate consultation and sensitivity, it is possible to achieve a re-organisation that will be beneficial for all concerned. We will keep you posted on developments and welcome early warnings from library, computer and audio-visual colleagues of any difficulties emerging.

Renee Prendergast

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Salaries

You should shortly receive your AUT members’ Handbook and a new membership card. Please note that the salary scales in the Handbook do not include the recent 3% pay rise because AUT do not consider it to be a full and final settlement. Neither do many universities, as at least 23 institutions have said that the payment is ‘on account’. In two cases nothing has been paid at all. Given the lack of cohesiveness on the part of the employers, the AUT has approached the UCEA (the employers’ negotiators) again to seek to re-open negotiations. A response is awaited. Locally we are about to enter negotiations on the new professorial salary structure.

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Academic Council 17 October

Although this was the first meeting of the reformed Academic Council, it was depressingly low key, and I fervently hope that the new members will soon develop the courage to speak up on behalf of those who elected them. The meeting opened with the V-C welcoming the new members who made up about a third of the new Council. Paul Hudson added to the welcome, but said that he had heard several stories of unusual electoral practices, and that Academic Council should set rules for the conduct of future elections. This was agreed.

The first item to provoke discussion was approval of new regulations that attempted to define to students what plagiarism is and to set out the consequences. Several people disputed the description of plagiarism and thought that the action to be taken was muddled. The Pro-V-C in charge of this agreed with the speakers, but said that we still had to approve the new regulations since he had already put them in the student handbook! He did, however, undertake to sort out the wording for next year.

The next item of note was the SPUR initiative to develop research infrastructure in NI universities. QUB and UU have submitted various capital bids to be funded from a £40M pot, and the outcome would be known this winter. The rules for the process were finalised in the late summer and Queen’s had submitted projects based on subjects or groups of subjects which have prospects of at least a grade 5 in the next RAE. As regards SPUR itself, there was nothing for Council to do except keep its fingers crossed, but an appendix to the document provoked comment. This was entitled "Institutional Strategic Plan for Research" and appeared to be a rehash of the old Academic Plan. There were objections to some of the wording in that it did not take into account recent improvements in research or give credit for high student-staff ratios. It was agreed that the document would be up-dated from time to time and account would be taken of the complaints. The Registrar spoke of his desire to increase the staffing of the Planning Office so that it would become a central reservoir of data on academic activities including teaching. This would make the drafting of such documents much easier.

There was another flurry when we reached the priority list for our very limit buildings budget. A Director of School complained that he risked having a laboratory shut down on Health and Safety grounds, but could not obtain the £30K needed for the building work. He compared this to the priority being given to re-housing five Directorates of the administration in Lanyon North. The Registrar replied that new administration offices were essential since one of his staff was forced to work from home. However he was unable to say if any of the prime teaching space would be lost. The academics were put on the defensive by the accusation that they booked teaching space and then did not use it, and they were threaten with being charged for unused space. However the problems would be cured by software that would give the administration control not only of central room bookings but of the scheduling of all teaching. Paul Hudson pointed out that any problems were caused by poor communication between departments and the administration and that, however good the software, garbage in meant garbage out.

Paul Hudson