Aston merger talks fire up AUT

December 5, 2003

Union leaders have urged Aston University managers and staff to be cautious about proposals for a merger with the University of Central England.

In a letter to Aston vice-chancellor Michael Wright, the Association of University Teachers calls for full consultation on the financial and academic implications of the proposal. It wants assurances that there will be no redundancies if the merger goes ahead.

The letter was issued as Aston's council met on Wednesday to consider how to respond to the merger offer, issued last week in a paper from UCE vice-chancellor Peter Knight.

UCE's governors have agreed to Dr Knight's proposal to transfer UCE to the chartered Aston University and for all of its staff to move to Aston with their employment conditions intact.

Dr Knight said: "It is strictly a UCE proposal. It is now up to Aston to decide what it wants."

Martin Machon, AUT regional assistant general secretary, said there were concerns about what sort of institution would be created if the merger went ahead.

"We have concerns about research and teaching quality, as well as job protection. The devil will be in the detail of what is being proposed," he said.

John Fletcher, president of Aston AUT, said initial soundings from Aston staff indicated there was so far "a sense that this is not going anywhere".

He said: "The first question is whether it makes financial and academic sense. There will undoubtedly be some concerns about the implications for quality.

"Also, as far as jobs are concerned, there is bound to be some duplication between the universities in administration even if there isn't any on the academic side."

Student union leaders at UCE said they would be canvassing the views of students on the proposal.

Dr Knight has objected to a statement issued by vice-chancellor of Birmingham University Michael Sterling suggesting that Birmingham join the merger talks.

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