Belfast AUT Newsletter Issue no. 1- January 2003
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go to previous sectionprevious go to next sectionnext White Paper on Higher Education

student funding | research | teaching | pay | knowledge transfer | access | timetable | viewing the white paper

The UK government has published both its White Paper on higher education and a three-year funding settlement for English universities. The AUT is currently analysing both documents for their full implications for universities in England but also for their impact on the higher education sectors in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Many higher education matters are devolved. Nevertheless the English strategy will have significant knock-on implications and will contain proposals which - if implemented - will require the devolved administrations to consider how they should act.

White paper: student funding | research | teaching | pay | knowledge transfer | access | timetable | viewing the white paper
Student funding

As expected, the government has announced the following: maintenance grant of up to £1,000/year to be reintroduced for the poorest students in September 2004. In April 2005, the repayment threshold for student loans will be increased from an income of £10,000 to £15,000. In September 2006, up-front fees will be abolished and a graduate repayment scheme introduced of 9% extra tax on income above £15K. At the same time, universities will be allowed to vary the fees they charge at an institutional or departmental level on a band from £0 to £3,000. AUT has attacked the top-up fees proposals saying, "This charge will become a much-detested tax." However, AUT welcomes the reintroduction of grants (albeit at a derisory level) and the scrapping of up-front fees.

White paper: student funding | research | teaching | knowledge transfer | pay | access | timetable | viewing the white paper

Research

Research funding is significantly increased, especially for "world class research". The funding regime should encourage research collaboration and promote research concentration. The government proposes creating a new 6* research category, drawn from the very best of the 5* departments which have a critical mass of researchers. This concentration of resources "makes it easier to develop research only posts and to offer better pay to attract excellent researchers." The new RAE (in 2008/9) will grade broader subject groupings than before and also recognise centres of excellence. 3s and 4s will still be funded if they are either clearly moving up the ladder or are in emerging research areas. AUT opposes this further concentration of research funding. A 100 fellowships per year will enable researchers from departments scoring 4 or below in the RAE to spend six months in a high-scoring department. The HEFCE will raise the standards for PhD training and this may lead to larger graduate schools in fewer institutions. A UK-wide Arts and Humanities Research Council will be created.

White paper: student funding | research | teaching | knowledge transfer | pay | access | timetable | viewing the white paper

Teaching

"All universities will in future, be judged by their teaching achievement as much as by their research attainment." The government "will target pay resources to those universities which reward high quality teaching." There is a significant overall increase in funding for teaching and an increase in the so-called "postcode premium" from 5% to 20%. They are also proposing setting up a Teaching Quality Academy in 2006 from which all new lecturers will have to gain a qualification. AUT has restated our commitment to better access to training and development for all probationary lecturers.

White paper: student funding | research | teaching | pay | knowledge transfer | access | timetable | viewing the white paper

Pay

More money is being targeted at pay but with the proviso that it is linked to performance. There are no further details in the white paper which leaves it up to the unions and the employers to negotiate. There are also proposals for "golden hellos" for new staff. AUT General Secretary, Sally Hunt, said, "At last the message that university staff are grossly underpaid seems to have been recognised. The fact that there will specifically be more money for teaching is also positive." However she restated AUT's opposition to performance related pay.

White paper: student funding | research | teaching | pay | knowledge transfer | access | timetable | viewing the white paper

Knowledge transfer.

A new permanent funding stream will support and encourage increased partnerships with local/regional industry and the local community. This money will be targeted at the less research-intensive universities and the Regional Development Agencies will have a formal role in this process.

White paper: student funding | research | teaching | pay | knowledge transfer | access | timetable | viewing the white paper

Access

The government has restated its commitment to the 50% target and to broadening access. It sees the bulk of the expansion as coming via foundation degrees for which there will be additional funding for universities. They are also proposing an Access Regulator to ensure that universities are doing as much as possible to increase their intake of non-traditional students. The regulator will look at three areas: work with local schools, admissions policies and the provision of bursaries. The regulator must be satisfied before a university can increase its fees. AUT has welcomed the government's commitment to broadening access but expressed concern that all students should have access to high quality teaching in a research environment.

White paper: student funding | research | teaching | pay | knowledge transfer | access | timetable | viewing the white paper

Timetable

The government consultation process on its proposals will run until 30 April 2003. They then plan to introduce early legislation and to implement their HE strategy in September 2003.

White paper: student funding | research | teaching | pay | knowledge transfer | access | timetable | viewing the white paper

viewing the white paper

The Department for Education and Skills has placed the White Paper and an Executive Summary on their website at: www.dfes.gov.uk/highereducation/hestrategy/ The 110 pages can also be consulted in the Belfast AUT office

go to topcontents go to previous sectionprevious go to next sectionnext English Three Year Funding Settlement

Total cash funding for higher education in England will rise from £7.6bn in the current year to £9.9bn in 2005-06 (table 1). This includes recurrent funding for teaching and research, plus funding for capital, knowledge transfer, expansion, access and widening participation, management and student support. Total funding will see an annual increase of 9% or more in cash terms, and of 6% or more in real terms, after stripping out forecast inflation.

Table 1 - Total funding for higher education in England - including student support

Year on year
Total cash £m
Additional cash £m
Cash change %
Real Terms change %
2002-03
7,596
2003-04
8,309
713
9.4
7.0
2004-05
9,057
748
9.0
6.3
2005-06
9,918
861
9.5
6.8


Once student support and non-recurrent items have been stripped out, the amount of recurrent cash resource for teaching and research going into higher education institutions in England rises from £5.7bn in the current year to £6.9bn by 2006 (table 2). In cash terms, recurrent funding will rise by 6.7% next year, by 5.0% in 2004-05 and by 7.6% in 2005-06. This welcome boost to recurrent income for higher education institutions - of a total of 21% in cash terms over the period covered by the 2002 spending review - is significantly higher than income increase forecast for the period by institutions, of 12.3% (see HEFCE circular 2003/02: Table 1). In terms of pay, institutions are forecasting staff costs as a whole to increase by 6.2% in 2002-03 reducing to 4.4% in 2005-06, with average pay inflation forecast to be around 3% in the spending review period.

Table 2 - Total recurrent funding for higher education in England


Year on year

Total cash £m
Additional cash £m
Cash change %
Real Terms change %
2002-03
5,695
2003-04
6,079
384
6.7
4.4
2004-05
6,383
304
5.0
2.4
2005-06
6,871
488
7.6
5.0



Table 3 indicates that the amount of recurrent funding per full-time equivalent student (the 'unit of resource') in England will increase by 3.1% in real terms next year, by 0.7% in 2004-05 and by 2.9% in 2005-06. This is a welcome continuation of the real terms increases in the unit of resource under the Labour government. In cash terms the amount spent per student in England on average will rise to nearly £6,000 by 2006. Over the period the government is planning an additional 56,000 full-time equivalent students in the sector. The government expects these increases 'to be accounted for by expansion of the number of Foundation Degrees offered by institutions'.

Table 3 - Unit of resource per student in England

Student FTEs million
Unit of resource cash £
Year on year
Additional cash £
Cash change %
Real Terms change %
2002-03
1.101
5,173
2003-04
1.115
5,452
279
5.4
3.1
2004-05
1.134
5,629
177
3.2
0.7
2005-06
1.157
5,939
310
5.5
2.9


go to topcontents go to previous sectionprevious go to next sectionnext What About Northern Ireland

As we know from recent experience, not every funding proposal for England gets mapped over to Northern Ireland. Apparently the direct-rule ministers do not want to change the student funding proposals that were in the recent NI budget. This may have implications for the other funding proposals. The natural inclination of Queen's would be to try to follow the development of the Russell group, including top-up fees. Indeed QUB may need this income in order to pay competitive salaries. However half our students are already exempt from fees because of low incomes and so there is little scope for charging extra.

The only firm good news on pay is that the improved research funding in the NI budget contains money earmarked for improved stipends for research students and research fellows. This will have implications for the pay of other junior staff.

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Six Points on Funding and Fees

In a letter to the English Education Secretary prior to the white paper, AUT insisted that it is possible to devise a funding system that increases badly needed investment in the university sector without creating an elitist system which discriminates against those who are less well-off. AUT has drawn up six criteria against which the proposals should be judged. The system should:

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The AUT Consultation Process

Because of the wide-ranging implications of today's announcements for university staff across the UK, the AUT is embarking on its largest ever consultation exercise amongst its members. The aim is to engage the profession in an informed debate about the future of higher education and hence to ensure that the association's formal response to the government's consultation process firmly reflects the views of both local associations and individual members. This exercise will fit in with the government's consultation period which ends on 30 April 2003.

To achieve this AUT already has an online survey on the national AUT website and is drawing up final plans for launching email discussion groups. These groups will be open to any member and will focus on specific aspects of the government's proposals. The aim is to provide a space for members to debate the issues in an informed and constructive manner. AUT is also looking at a range of other consultation and communication methods, including the use of direct emails to members.

Belfast AUT will hold a general meeting during February at which the key issues concerning members can be debated. Details will be announced later.

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Contract Research

The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee has just published a report on Short-term Research Contracts in Science and Engineering. Now there is a giant gap between a backbench committee producing a report, and the Westminister government adopting it as policy and funding it. (And even more so to get a Northern Ireland administration to support it!) However, improvements could be made by changing the attitudes of the Research Councils and universities, and a campaign to do this need not be delayed. Other improvements could be made at School and grant-holder level, and we recommend that anyone with managerial responsibility for research staff should read this report on www.aut.org.uk/campaigns/cascamp/stccrcfullreport.pdf .

Belfast AUT expect to get into discussions with QUB management on all forms of fixed-term and casual employment later this year.

The Report contains 40 conclusions and recommendations, and here is a selection:

The proportion of researchers working on fixed-term contracts is too high. The starting point for any policy should be to reduce this proportion.

The Concordat and the Research Careers Initiative have focused on managing the problem rather than solving it.

Any new Concordat must build on the best aspects of the first but it must not be simply a funders' charter. Its signatories must come from all the key players, including government, unions, the funding councils, and the researchers themselves, and its fine words must be backed up with a clear implementation strategy to make sure things really do change this time.

Universities will have to make financial provision for redundancy payments and this must be taken into account by both public and private funders of research.

In the commercial world businesses have to make predictions about their future income and productivity, and plan accordingly. Universities reserve the right to look no further than the end of the current research grant and place the entire burden of risk onto researchers. CRS can be thankful that the Employment Regulations are forcing universities to act.

IThe current crisis in science and engineering research careers has arisen in part because the Government has failed to recognise that the way in which it funds research in universities impacts on the employment of contract researchers. The situation demands an urgent rebalancing of the dual support system.

IContract researchers are taken for granted and badly treated but too many seem to embark on a career and hope for the best. They need to look ahead and evaluate their prospects. Ultimately, researchers must take responsibility for their own careers.

We would like a world where good researchers were successful on merit and less subject to an academic lottery.

IWe welcome the training grants for Research Council-funded CRS announced in the Spending Review but there is more that the Research Councils should be doing. It is not clear to us why Research Councils Cannot treat their grants as much as investments in people as in research. Their insistence on passing the buck to the universities is shameful.

To prevent contract researchers, particularly the more senior ones, from applying for Research Council grants is demeaning and stifles good ideas. If one Research Council can allow this then they all can. We recommend that all Research Councils allow contract researchers to apply for their grants without delay.

It is hard to identify a single culprit for the continuing mistreatment of our research workforce, but top of the list must be a management culture in some of our research-intensive universities, which is callous and shortsighted. The universities are underfunded, but that is not an excuse for poor management.

To resolve the problem of huge numbers of research staff working on short contracts, it is clear to us that university management must change radically, not just at the top level but in the way individual departments and research teams are managed.
 

 

 


© 2003 Belfast Association of University Teachers
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