Higher Education E Bulletin Issue 20 – Nov 2006

  • Job Evaluation progress report
  • Leeds reopens job evaluation discussions
  • Spying on students
  • Strained relations within UCU come out in public
  • “Private schools should set up universities”
  • Irish Institutes of Technology push for university status
  • HESDA training for technicians
  • “Everything you wanted to know about grading appeals but are afraid to ask!”
  • TUC Education Annual Report 2006

Job Evaluation progress report

Job evaluation negotiations continue across the country. Several universities will be going to ballot shortly on their job evaluation proposals and in some cases also their harmonisation of benefits. These include Strathclyde, Royal College of Arts London, Brunel and St Andrews . The Framework Agreement set an implementation date for August 2006. UCEA claims that many HEIs have missed this date and are yet to implement. These include Bristol , Manchester , City, Kings College London, Goldsmiths, Stirling , SOAS, Sussex, Swansea, Edinburgh , Birkbeck and Bath . If the situation at your institution is different from UCEA’s data please let Vera Titmus know so that we have up-to-date information.

Leeds reopens job evaluation discussions

The University of Leeds was the first HEI using HERA to complete its job evaluation. However a re-opener clause was inserted to the arrangements at the time to allow for further discussions if changes were made to the job evaluation system following the intervention of any other union. At Leeds promises have been made by at least one other academic orientated union to remove red circling altogether. This promise has not been achieved but at least Amicus have now lessened the impact on red circled grades and moved the grade boundaries for others so that green circled staff also gain advantage. Leeds will move to 35 hours as of 2007 and sick pay will also be harmonised for all at that point. A further ballot of staff is being arranged once union Solicitors have checked the document and given approval. The other point to draw from the Leeds experience is that agreements should be open to renegotiation, if there are improvements that can be made.

Spying on students

Last month the Guardian newspaper reported leaked plans to ask university staff to report on potential extremist Muslim students. Elsewhere the document refers to students of “Asian appearance” coming under suspicion. The leaked DfES document has caused widespread condemnation from academics and university employees who feel that this is an infringement on the rights of the students and way beyond their duties as members of staff. National Officer, Mike Robinson said “this will do little to solve the problem of extremism and will be perceived to be yet another attack on young British Muslims. University employees do not want to spy on students.” DfES admitted working on guidance for tackling extremism on campuses but said “the guidance has not been finalised, it is pure speculation to say what is going to be included.” The news has echoed throughout the world press and can only be bad publicity for a sector that is increasingly seeking overseas students especially from growing Asian economies.

Strained relations within UCU come out in public

Arguments within the new University and College Union have become increasingly public over the last few weeks. Letters from both the joint general secretaries in newspapers and widespread grumblings about the mishandlings of the recent pay dispute have become increasingly vocal and critical of opposing sides. The Times Higher has printed hostile comments from both Sally Hunt (formerly of the AUT) and Paul Mackney (formerly of Natfhe). In one of the most explosive comments Paul Mackney wrote: “If we are really going to do our dirty washing in public, let us look at the biggest bundle – the national higher education pay dispute.” It is likely that this dispute will continue until the new general secretary is decided in March.

“Private schools should set up universities”

The vice-chancellor of the University of East London has suggested that leading independent schools should set up private universities. Prof Michael Thorne said the UK needed more privately-funded universities, because tuition fees and government grants did not generate enough money. During the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference Prof Thorne suggested that private schools were “global education brands”. He also suggested that the United States had far more privately-funded institutions and that their big endowments far outstripped the state funding given to all UK universities. His ideas do not seem to have gone down well with Private Schools though. Martin Stephen, high master of St Paul ‘s School in London , said: “There is a real problem of delusions of grandeur… Whether we like it or not we are a support industry. Our job is to prepare undergraduates.” Amicus National Officer, Mike Robinson said “Amicus is strongly against the creation of private universities as this would lead to further marketisation of higher education and could have a serious knock on effect on member’s jobs. For example, there would be no requirement for a private university to be part of the job evaluation exercise and they would not be parties to current national agreements to ensure that their pay systems are free of discrimination.”

Irish Institutes of Technology push for university status

It is expected that a growing number of Irish Institutes of Technology are likely to seek university status following a boost for the campaign by the Waterford Institute. Taoiseach Bertie Ahern gave the Waterford Institute campaign to gain university status his unexpected support. Normally applications for upgrading are dealt with under section 9 of the Universities Act under which the Government can appoint international experts to give advice. But the Taoiseach announced that in the case of Waterford , Education Minister Hanafin intends to commission a preliminary independent examination of a submission the institute’s governing body has made. “Once completed, the independent expert report will be used to guide the Government’s future decisions,” he said. Mr Ahern said also: “We want to make decisions that place Waterford and Ireland at the forefront of academic excellence and enhance this region’s reputation as a location for investment.” These events are being closely watched by other Institutes such as Dublin and Cork .

HESDA training for technicians

Amicus has been negotiating the adoption of HESDA training courses for technicians with UCEA. HESDA (The Higher Education Staff Development Agency) offer a wide range of training courses covering subjects from workplace skills and development to specific courses on scientific processes. For more information on the HESDA Technical Skill Development project visit: http://www.hesda.org.uk/subjects/sd/technical.html

“Everything you wanted to know about grading appeals but are afraid to ask!”

“Everything you wanted to know about grading appeals but are afraid to ask!” – New Amicus Training course for senior reps Amicus has developed a new training course for senior reps to take place on 7-8 November 2006 at Wortley Hall Sheffield. The course will help senior reps learn more about grading appeals and develop the skills to successfully handle them. There is limited availability for the course and it will only be open to senior reps. Next years programmes is being formulated and is expected to concentrate on getting the local Framework Agreements MOT’d. What did you miss that other HEI’s have achieved? How can you build in changes to the existing agreements? What are the best arrangements for rewarding and developing staff and is your contribution point system equality proofed? These issues will be covered in the new year. For more information please contact Vera Titmus

TUC Education Annual Report 2006

TUC Education runs a fully accredited programme which offers training to more than one in five of the UK ‘s 220,000 union workplace representatives each year. Course enrolments have risen significantly against the 2004 figure (a year of significant growth in itself) – student numbers up by 9.3% the highest figures ever. Women’s participation in the programme remains stable at at 37.2%, and still showing a significantly higher level of participation (40.3%) in the short course programme than in the longer core courses. With now ten consecutive Adult Learning Inspectorate Grade 1, outstanding, inspection reports and an unrivalled reputation for quality and innovation in adult education, TUC is well placed to take advantage of the new opportunities offered by the new coherent structure for all the TUC’s work on learning. http://www.unionlearn.org.uk/education/learn-1002-f0.cfm

This e-bulletin has been produced by James Lazou, Research Officer for the Higher Education sector. If you have any news items or stories you would like included in the bulletin please contact James at

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