AUT has paid ERS marketing research
to conduct a poll of members’ feelings. Both academic and academic related
staff were involved. 5386 postal questionnaires
were sent to AUT members in 20 institutions in both the old’ and ‘new’ sectors.
QUB was not involved. 1817 (33.7%) completed questionnaires were returned The results
- 27% of respondents are looking for
another career outside higher education;
- 44% of respondents would not recommend
a career as a university academic;
- 46% of those in the same job say
that their morale at work has worsened over the last two years;
- 47% of respondents would not recommend
a career as a university researcher;
- 56% of respondents suffer from
excessive work related stress;
- 63% of respondents do not feel
that their work is adequately staffed;
- 66% of respondents are dissatisfied
with their pay when compared to public sector non-manuals;
- 71% of respondents experience some
work related stress;
- 71% of respondents feel little
or no involvement in decision-making processes in their institution;
- 73% of university teachers are
dissatisfied with their pay when compared to state school teachers;
- 80% of those in the same job feel
that their workload has increased over the last two years;
- 82% of respondents say that work
impairs their quality of life;
- 86% of respondents feel that the
amount of work is heavy.
This was the title of the conference hosted by the Centre
for Cross Border Studies and held in Ballyconnell. It was the second in a series
of six being arranged jointly by the Department of Employment and Learning,
the Higher Education Authority in the Republic of Ireland. AUT sent three local
officers and the regional official to monitor developments and to expand our
network of contacts. The next conference will be held from 6-7th November in
Belfast and the subject is widening access.
The conference had a large number of speakers with very few opportunities
to participate either in questioning or in breakaway groups. A lot of information
was given, in particular about the demographic dip of a quarter in potential
conventional home students by 2010 in the Republic. There was a clear message
for the Republic that they needed to open up their doors and become more
in the area of attracting international students. It was noted however, that
the numbers of fee paying overseas students in Northern Ireland is low in
comparison with the Republic. However in the North nearly half of the students
whereas in the Republic they are overwhelmingly undergraduate. There is also
a boom in the South in English language teaching which is often needed as
a precursor for higher education. [This is in contrast to recent developments
There was only passing attention paid to teaching foreign students by distance
learning or by setting up teaching resources in their own country. The
main concern was teaching provided in the island of Ireland. Where this
place in universities it will presumably be covered by existing quality
The worrying aspect was the number of technical colleges and private unrecognised
colleges that want to get in on the act. Since we were told that you cannot
successfully build overseas recruitment on selling leftover spaces on existing
courses, even universities may be forced in the direction of semi-autonomous
commercial offshoots. The phrase that was never heard was “research led
teaching”. The only question on quality control (from the AUT) was brushed
there was little recognition of the role of staff in the education of overseas
students and no mention of the training and resources that may be needed.
We heard about the large expansion of overseas students in Australia, but
then a different light was shone on it by a Norwegian student. Apparently
colleges pay large fees to recruiting agents, but the quality of education
provided in some colleges is so poor that Norwegians refer to their qualifications
as “surfing degrees”. From the way that some people wanted to sell the
attractions of studying in Ireland and the poor quality control in some
I suspect that we will soon hear a phrase like “Guinness degrees”.
There was very little critical analysis of what was going on internationally,
though towards the end in a number of speeches there was some reference
to increases in competitiveness and commercialisation of higher education
the international sphere. Although most foreign students do not initially
between the two parts of Ireland, the idea of a single marketing of
Ireland to students evaporated towards the end of the conference. This
of present marketing arrangements and differences in recognised qualifications,
currency, fees and visa requirements.
From a Northern Ireland perspective the most interesting contribution
at the above conference was by Tony Hopkins of NIHEC who gave his view of the
implications for Northern Ireland of the England and Wales White Paper. He
basically said the following (which is very close to the analysis that the
V-C gave to Senate):
- The basic
approaches of selective research funding cannot be applied to Northern Ireland.
There is continuing need to sustain the teaching and research
of both universities, at least to the existing levels.
- NI must retain a
broad base of course provision, and he explored the idea of the fee earning
potential of courses and addressed this later when he
about top-up fees. Fees near the upper end of the top-up spectrum would
be needed to maintain the present status of the institutions.
- He noted
that student flow from outside Northern Ireland had declined and this led
to his next point.
- Which was that charging
top-up fees in England but not in Northern Ireland would mean more bright
students remaining in NI, and that inward flows of students
could be attracted. Because of capacity constraints, the weaker potential
students from NI would be forced to go to GB institutions and pay fees or
higher education. If Northern Ireland charges top-up fees but Scotland
charges no fees to non-Scottish students, there could be a mass outflow in
- However, not applying
fees would affect funding parity with the rest of the UK, and Northern Ireland
would have to approach the Government for appropriate
financial support. Without this support the quality of the institutions
in Northern Ireland would eventually decline and good students would go elsewhere
in search of a quality education. Thus the fees issue is going to
implications for the two institutions.
- This would then
lessen the attractiveness of Northern Ireland institutions to international
students. However NIHEC would like to see international students
being 10 –15 % of the total.
- NIHEC therefore
have decided that adequate funds must be found. This is going to be their
approach to the White Paper issues when they impact on Northern
Ireland. This funding campaign should build on the successful
research funding campaign held before Christmas.
Clearly Tony Hopkins was alerting the conference to the real
serious impact of the fees issue on Northern Ireland and how
it would influence
development of the two universities in the international context.
[Belfast AUT shares these concerns.] From the Chair, George
commented that it was unfortunate that Westminster orientated
did not take into account the impact of their decisions on
places like Northern
Paul Hudson and the Regional Officer
- Hull Your Committee has sent a message of support to Hull
AUT who are holding an Emergency General Meeting to debate a motion of no confidence
in the Vice-Chancellor and a call for an enquiry into the management and management
policies of the university. This is because the Hull management have decided
to proceed with redundancies and the closure of undergraduate degree programmes
without negotiating with the trade-unions or providing adequate financial information.
We will keep you in touch with this story. I am particularly intrigued to hear
that the posts of Registrar and Academic Registrar are to be made redundant.
Ireland The Conference of Rectors in Ireland is being wound up
and replaced by “Universities Ireland”, modelled on Universities UK. However,
the two jurisdictions mean that it will be a less powerful body with no employers
function. The secretariat will be provided by the Centre for Cross Border Studies
- Job Evaluation We have heard a presentation from consultant from Hay about
the revised Hay job evaluation scheme that QUB want to run as a trial. It sounded
like the standard Hay scheme for evaluating the post for most types of staff.
But for “academic and research staff” other major criteria are added which
evaluate the person such as performance and international standing. These may
approximate to the present promotion criteria although first impressions are
that teaching only staff would not score well. We will watch this trial very
- Good News
and Bad News The good news is that Retired Members will no longer pay an annual subscription
of about £27, but can pay the lowest Full
Member subscription of about £15. The bad news is that, despite slashing
the committee structure, subscriptions for everybody else will rise by 4%.
This is partly due to the large deficit in the pension fund for AUT staff.
The Legal Protection at Work scheme has been used by many members and the levy
for this is to rise by 6p per month.
Representatives We thank those who have volunteered to be AUT’s
representative in their department. We still need more especially in the Engineering
Faculty. AUT HQ produces a journal Briefing aimed at departmental representatives
and other activists. To get on the mailing list, contact Belfast AUT Office
Pay A paper to the Royal Economic Society has analysed Vice-Chancellors’
remuneration. Professor Dolton (Newcastle) and Dr Ma (Aberdeen) looked at links
between performance and pay. Improving the score of a university in the Research
Assessment Exercise brought rewards for the V-C. For every extra point above
the UK average RAE score, his or her salary rose between 1.9% and 2.7%. Good
teaching performance, as measured by the quality assurance agency’s reports,
made absolutely no difference — an interesting comment on universities’ priorities.
The paper notes “many V-C’s find themselves subject to hostility from their
staff as a result of taking large pay rises.”
Your Pay When in November 2000 David Blunkett announced improved funding for universities
he said “Within the overall additions to funding for
higher education, I have allocated £50M in 2001-02, £110M in 2002-03
and £170M in 2003-04 for both academic and support pay.” However, AUT
has discovered that only £16M (32%) of the money spent in academic year
2001-02 found its way into pay packets. A further 30% of the money available
was spent on staff development and 12% on reviews of staffing needs.
Warning There is no truth in the rumour that the health warning “This
package contains peanuts” is to be displayed on QUB pay slips.
Fixed-term, casual and hourly
paid members can attend a Summer School at Cirencester from 20 to 22 June.
All expenses will be paid and an allowance can be paid to cover care of dependants.
Information is available at www.aut.org.uk/index.cfm?articleid=217 or from
The Government is now taking the plight of HE fixed-term staff seriously
and has told universities that:
- Institutions will
have to make financial provision for redundancy payments and this must be
taken into account by both public and private funders of research.
- Institutions must
not see the new Regulations as an excuse to refuse to renew existing contracts
or to award a researcher a new one so that the fouryear
limit is not reached, so in the future ‘the use of successive fixedterm
contracts will be limited’.
- Institutions need
to create ‘transparently sustainable research businesses’ and recover the
full economic costs of their research, reflecting their overall
staffing costs in the pricing of research to public and private funders.
in the recurrent grant and the contribution by the Research Councils to indirect
research costs in universities, are expected to enable institutions
to provide greater stability in employment for research staff, with
grants being dependent on proper human resource strategies being in place,
specific plans for support and training of CRS, particularly preparing
postdoctoral researchers for the different career paths envisaged by the
Belfast AUT are in negotiations about the employment of fixed-term
The Annual General Meeting of Belfast AUT will take place on Wednesday 25
June at 1.05 p.m. in G06, Peter Frogatt Centre. This meeting will consider
minor rule changes (details can be obtained from the AUT office, ext 3256),
and set the local subscription. We will also hear reports from the outgoing
Officers and elect the bulk of the AUT Committee. (The rest are elected by
constituency elections in at Christmas.)
I therefore invite nomination for
the following positions:
- The President
- The Honorary Secretary
- The Secretary for Local Issues
- The Assistant Honorary Secretary
- The Honorary Treasurer
- The Membership Secretary
- 4 General Members
All the present incumbents are eligible for re-election. The duties of the
various offices are laid down in the rules, and, if you are
interested, you can discuss what is really involved with me.
Nominations shall be made with the written consent of the nominee
either by the Committee or by any two members of the Local
Association. They should be
sent to me at the Institute of Lifelong Learning by 4 p.m.
on Wednesday 10 June.
Susan Harte, Honorary Secretary
2003 Belfast Association of University Teachers
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