Leader: Union's leader loss is merger lobby's gain

July 27, 2001

Competitors are already lining up to replace David Triesman as general secretary of the Association of University Teachers. He, and his access to those in power, will be missed. But his departure provides the opportunity for taking a new look at the representation of academic staff.

One of the unions, Natfhe, grew up to represent the workforce of a local government-funded education sector that no longer exists. The other, the AUT, with its membership base in old universities, has more prestige and a better footing in the research community but has a blurred mission, representing staff in a wide range of institutions without covering the profession comprehensively.

A new negotiating system for pay; conflicting approaches to the Institute for Learning and Teaching; failure over the years to win improved salaries - all point one way: higher education needs a single academic union. Mergers are easier when a convenient vacancy means unseemly battles for the top job can be avoided. Carpe diem .

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