Produced by Belfast Association of University Teachers
Issue No 6
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: 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. HQ document
International 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.
The Implications of 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): The basic approaches of selective research funding cannot be applied to Northern Ireland. There is a continuing need to sustain the teaching and research mission 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 talked 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 else forego 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 that direction. 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 have long-term 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 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
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. Universities 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 at Armagh. 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 closely. 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. Departmental 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 (ext 3256). Vice-Chancellors’ 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.‖ Pocketing 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. Health 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 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 www.aut.org.uk/index.cfm?articleid=217 or from me. 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. Increases 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, including specific plans for support and training of CRS, particularly preparing postdoctoral researchers for the different career paths envisaged by the Roberts report. Belfast AUT are in negotiations about the employment of fixed-term staff. Paul Hudson
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: 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