Belfast AUT Newsletter Issue no. 6- May 2003
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go to previous sectionprevious go to next sectionnext Survey Shows Dissatisfaction

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 showed that:


go to topcontents go to previous sectionprevious go to next sectionnext Internation Education:A capacity builder for the Island of Ireland

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 competitive 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 are postgraduates, 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 in Queen’s.]

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 takes place in universities it will presumably be covered by existing quality control mechanisms. 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 aside. Furthermore, 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 Australian 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 institutions, 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 in the international sphere. Although most foreign students do not initially distinguish between the two parts of Ireland, the idea of a single marketing of Ireland to students evaporated towards the end of the conference. This was because of present marketing arrangements and differences in recognised qualifications, currency, fees and visa requirements.

go to topcontents go to previous sectionprevious go to next sectionnext The Implications for top-up fees

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):

Clearly Tony Hopkins was alerting the conference to the real serious impact of the fees issue on Northern Ireland and how it would influence the future development of the two universities in the international context. [Belfast AUT shares these concerns.] From the Chair, George Quigley further commented that it was unfortunate that Westminster orientated policy preparation did not take into account the impact of their decisions on places like Northern Ireland.
Paul Hudson and the Regional Officer

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Fixed-term and casual staff

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 or from me.

The Government is now taking the plight of HE fixed-term staff seriously and has told universities that:

Belfast AUT are in negotiations about the employment of fixed-term staff.

Paul Hudson

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AGM and call for nominations

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:

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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