Belfast AUT Newsletter Issue no. 9- August 2002
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We briefly covered funding in the last Newsletter, but there is now more information about the various funding announcements, although it is still not clear how most of them will map over to Northern Ireland. The 2002 Spending Review will increase UK educational expenditure from 4.6% of GDP in 2000/1 to an estimated 5.6% by 2005/6. However, most of the extra expenditure will be on schools, and the details of spending on universities will not be known until the Government publishes its white paper on public funding and student finance in the autumn. The Government claim that from 2003/4 the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) will be able to fully fund the RAE in England. Details - for instance if the funding for grade 3b will be restored - are unclear. For England there is a promise of 'real terms increase in total funding per student'. There the Government has set as targets 'By 2010, increase participation in Higher Education towards 50% of those aged 18 to 30. Also, make significant progress year on year towards fair access, and bear down on rates of non-completion.'

The Northern Ireland budget will increase by £1.2B by 2005/6 compared with 2002/3, but what goes to the universities will be determined by the NI Assembly and Executive. So far these have not developed a distinctive HE policy, but already the age participation rate here is in the mid-forties, and there is a better social mix here than elsewhere in the UK. With other types of expenditure having more voter appeal, we will have to fight to get a fair share for higher education, and the targets that we are set may be rather provincial.

On 15 July the Chancellor said, "Britain must not make the mistakes in science education in the next generation that we made in the last and so, to fund a new generation of young British scientists, we will implement the Roberts Report." The minimum PhD stipend paid by research councils will increase to £12K with extra in areas where recruitment is difficult so that the average stipend will be over £13K. The training available to PhD students and postdoctoral researchers will be improved, and PhD students will be funded for an average of 3½ years. The average annual pay of research council postdoctoral researchers will be increased by £4K by 2005/6, with the increases being targeted in areas with recruitment and retention difficulties. Over five years 1000 new academic fellowship posts will be created for the best postdoctoral researchers to help them make the transition to being a permanent academic. Details of these and other initiatives are in the Government document 'Investing in Innovation: A Strategy for Science, Engineering and Technology'. This document is on www.hm-treasury.gov.uk If you do not want to print off the 120 pages, there is a consultation copy on the coffee table in the AUT Office.

The UK science budget will get an average real annual growth in spending between 2002/3 and 2005/6 of 10%. The Government is creating a capital funding stream worth £500M a year by 2005/6 to tackle the effects of underinvestment in research infrastructure. This is more than the £475M additional annual infrastructure funding called for by AUT, but falls short of the additional £590M p.a. recommended by Universities UK. There will also be an increase to £205M in 2005/6 in the spending on large central scientific facilities.

The research councils will be provided by 2005/6 with an extra £120M a year compared to 2002/3 to make a greater contribution to the indirect costs of research projects. This is close to the £110M recommended by Dearing in 1997. The research councils will also have an additional £400M for new areas of scientific development such as proteomics and brain science.

An expanded Higher Education Innovation Fund (incorporating University Challenge and Science Enterprise Challenge) will have annual funding of £90M by 2005/6 to assist with the commercial exploitation of knowledge developed in higher education. This is well short of the £150M recommended by Universities UK, but see below for the extra funds provided by the Wellcome Trust.

The strategy is UK-wide for science funding via the Office of Science & Technology (which includes the research councils) and that amounts to an extra £890M per annum by 2005/6. However, for devolved areas such as higher education funding, '¼ it will be for the devolved administrations to decide what policies they wish to implement; they will receive their share of increases in comparable programmes in the spending review in the normal way.' The spending in England on research, research infrastructure and the Roberts Review via DfES will total an extra £394M per annum by 2005/6. Northern Ireland should expect to get funds equivalent to about 2½% of this.

In exchange for this funding the Chancellor expects from universities 'continued development of their costing and financial management systems' so that they are better able to understand the costs, direct and indirect, of research. He also said, 'The government will expect universities to manage their budgets in a way which allows them to invest properly in infrastructure renewal and ensure that research is put on a sustainable footing.'

This improved Government funding is great news in terms of improved career prospects and pay, and less reliance on fixed term contracts. However, the announcements apply directly only to academic and research staff and, apart from the proper funding of the RAE, virtually only to science and technology, although '¼ the research base for the arts and humanities, which also contributes to economic and social benefits, should continue to be supported.' So we may experience an increased dichotomy between science-based and arts-based subjects. See below. Also the money does not start to flow in until 2003/4. In the meanwhile AUT estimates that at least 2000 research jobs could be lost nationally next year. AUT is appealing to the universities concerned to use reserves to tide these people over. In QUB the prospect of improved funding for science teaching and research ought to remove the pressure for drastic action over Research Officers.

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The Wellcome Trust, the medical research charity, intends to spend £280M over the next five years. £95M of this will go on an extension for the Sanger Institute for post-genomics, and £25M towards a national centre for improving science teaching. The rest should be available to UK universities in general with £30M for equipment grants and £40M to help develop research results into commercial propositions. They are also recognising what other funders have chosen to ignore - that research involves the unknown - and are setting aside £60M Flexibility Funding Awards to pay for unanticipated direct cost associated with research. Finally they are establishing a £30M Value in People fund to provide grants of up to £250K to universities to spend as they choose with the priority being to help start promising scientist's careers.

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The Government is clearly thinking of differential rates of pay for H.E. staff to deal with recruitment and retention difficulties. '¼ the market for science and research has become increasingly global in recent years. UK universities have to complete with the USA, Europe and elsewhere for talent and research contracts if their departments are to maintain or improve their world ranking. This means universities - particularly those which are recognised leaders in their fields - being able to offer competitive salaries to potential staff, and having facilities and equipment conducive to top class research.'

£330M was made available over three years in the 2000 Spending Review for higher education pay, including recruitment and retention of high academic quality staff in strategically important disciplines. This funding was allocated by HEFCE to institutions, which were required to submit human resource strategies setting out how it would be used to achieve institutions priorities. QUB submitted a strategy including the Professorial Pay scheme and discretionary payments for other staff. This funding is now to be made permanent. (QUB assumed that in the new academic strategy.) Government '¼ will therefore allocate further resources in the 2002 Spending Review for pay increases targeted on the recruitment and retention of permanent staff in all disciplines (including, but not only, those in science and technology) where there is the greatest competition. These increases will be based on priorities identified in universities' human resource strategies.'

Research performance should not be the sole priority, and teaching should have a role, as the end of this quotation indicates: 'Through this review the Government and HEFCE can ensure that in the longer-term teaching funding for different subjects accurately reflects the costs involved in modernising their teaching environment (for example, science and engineering teaching laboratories) in line with technological progress. The Human resource strategies and associate funding provide a mechanism for institutions to recruit and retain teaching staff in competitive markets, but the HEFCE will also consider whether and, if so, how, teaching funding should reflect differing recruitment and retention costs.'

Differential pay is not entirely new; clinical academics are paid differently, Oxford and Cambridge adapt national scales, and Cranfield and the London Business School opt out. Only the minimum professorial salary is determined nationally, and market forces play a part in setting professorial pay in many universities. In QUB the professorial pay scheme is about academic standing and international reputation and does not explicitly refer to subject or market forces. Market forces necessarily play a part in appointments at all levels and sometimes in the grading of vacancies. In the past they had a role in some promotions and award of discretionary pay, but they have no explicit part in the present procedures.

Already in QUB salary anomalies between new appointments and existing staff are causing tensions. The new announcements will make these more widespread. In some of the activities of academics, e.g. administration and student welfare, the subject is incidental. The University is more than a collection of subjects but is a community which shares duties within Schools and between Schools. To function as a community it needs to share a sense of fairness. Pay differentials must not be so great as to destroy this.

As usual, the Government wants several contradictory things. The predominance of men amongst science and technology staff means that the gender pay gap is likely to widen, not narrow. Also the Government want universities to introduce job evaluation in the belief that it will mean equal pay for equal work; subject related pay means unequal pay for equal work.

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Tax Returns

You should be aware that you are entitled to claim tax relief on two-thirds of the national element of your AUT subscription (excluding the Political Fund) under "Professional fees and subscriptions". Our subscription year runs from 1 September so the tax year takes in five months at 2000-01 rates and seven months at 2001-02 rates. If you moved between subscription rates you need to check your pay-slips, but for most members the amount that you can claim relief on is set out below:

  2000-01 national element 5/12 2001-02 national element 7/12 National element in 2001-02 tax year 2/3 of national element
Full Rate £105.84 £44.10 £112.92 £65.87 £109.97 £73.31
Reduced 1 £63.24 £26.35 £68.64 £40.04 £66.39 £44.26
Reduced 2 £26.76 £11.15 £30.72 £17.92 £29.07 £19.38


Further information about claiming and the subscription rates for other years are on www.aut.org.uk/membersonly/advice/taxandsubs.html
Don't forget to claim other professional subscriptions related to your work. Under "other expenses and capital allowances" you can try claiming for books and software bought for your work, and many of you may be able to claim the cost of maintaining a study at home. Details of how to claim were given in the April 2001 Newsletter and more information is in the Member's Handbook.

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© 2002 Belfast Association of University Teachers
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