Ask the panel

April 29, 2005

Worried about your employment, maternity, pension rights? Send your questions to The Times Higher advice panel.

I teach core healthcare studies nine hours a week and have done so for five years at a post-92 university. I have learnt that the university plans to place me on grade AC1 - right at the bottom of the lecturer scale. It does not believe that my work meets the criteria for grade AC2. In fact, I lead on one module, and I object to being graded lower than full-time colleagues doing the same work. What can I do?

Your university, like every other univer-sity in the country, will be working towards imple-menting the new pay framework agreement hammered out last year between employers and unions.

The agreement states that staff must be graded according to the results of a job evaluation exercise. As part of this process, groups of jobs have been allocated to new grades on the pay spine. This is a complicated exercise that some universities have only just started, while others are nearing completion. It does seem to be causing a fair amount of concern among staff.

Although the unions and employers agreed a no-detriment clause for existing and future staff, which means that no one should be worse off when they are moved to the new pay spine, many staff are anxious. And there seems to be particular anxieties among part-time staff about how they will fare.

* The employers' answer to your question is categorical. "You should not be graded differently from full-time staff undertaking the same work," says our panel member from the Universities and Colleges Employers'

Association.

He goes on: "Grading decisions will have followed a job evaluation exercise that has either scored your role individually or matched it to an agreed role profile for the grade.

"Presumably, this exercise has identified significant differences between the work you do and that undertaken by your full-time colleagues. If you do not agree that this is the case, you should ask your university for a review of the grading decision under the arrangements it will have established for this purpose.

"You may be asked to provide objective evidence that your work is the same as that done by full-timers."

* The unions are blunter. Our panellist from lecturers' union Natfhe says:

"In your case, your employer has mistakenly allocated you to the wrong grade."

He spells out why. "Part of the agreement hammered out last year is that no lecturer in a new university should be on AC1. This grade is mainly intended to cover PhD students doing extra teaching, a group largely to be found in old universities."

In fact, he says, you should be on AC3. "The criteria for grading at AC2 level states that staff are expected to undertake a very limited teaching role. Staff are not expected to develop their own teaching materials or take responsibility for courses or modules. It appears that your job should be graded at AC3, which is in essence senior lecturer level.

"The criteria for grading as a senior lecturer are that you must deliver a number of modules across or within a subject area. There are other requirements in relation to administration, scholarly activity and possible research activity that could also be relevant as you are required to lead on a specific module or course.

"If full-time colleagues have been graded at AC3 level and a comparative exercise shows that you are undertaking the same type of work, your employer will be compelled to change the grading decision."

The Association of University Teachers, Natfhe and Ucea stress that for staff who are unhappy about their grading, there is a process of appeal and review. Trade unions say that their representatives will be able to help you.

Our AUT panellist points out that there are nationally provided role profiles against which jobs should be assessed.

Details: www.ucea.ac.uk/academic_role_profiles.html

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