Brunel enters fray as AUT rings bell for round 3

July 8, 2005

A new battle of the ads is being played out in the pages of this week's Times Higher as the Association of University Teachers locks horns with Brunel University over redundancies.

The AUT has taken out a full-page advertisement (page 5) concerning pay modernisation in universities. It is the third such advertisement taken out by the AUT this year as part of its campaign to "name and shame" institutions over their progress, or lack of, towards implementation of the new pay framework.

But the advert, presented as a report card, also includes the "important announcement" that Brunel is to be greylisted because of its refusal to withdraw the threat of compulsory redundancies for staff. Greylisting is a serious censure by the union, which could lead staff at other universities to boycott Brunel.

In response to the initial greylisting announcement, made last Friday by the AUT, Brunel decided to take out its own full-page advert (page 11).

Styled as an open letter to the academic community, it says that the university is "deeply disappointed" by the greylisting.

It says the redundancy exercise "has never been about cutting jobs". "Very few" will be made redundant on a compulsory basis and the university's aim is to replace non-research-active staff with researchers, it adds. It says it has created an extra 30 posts.

The advert expresses concern at the fact that the AUT's decision was taken without a full member ballot. The university claims that barely 6 per cent of its staff were consulted.

The AUT has had a stormy relationship with Brunel vice-chancellor Steven Schwartz. Earlier this year it nominated him as Britain's worst boss for a TV show. It called his plans for redundancies "an almost unheard-of event in a British university", which it said left academic staff "battered and undermined in public".

Professor Schwartz is expected to leave Brunel later this year after being offered the post of vice-chancellor of Macquarie University in Sydney.

* Lecturers at Bournemouth University have indicated that they are ready to strike if managers impose a locally agreed contract. A consultative ballot by lecturers' union Natfhe gave a two-thirds majority in favour of action if the university imposes a local contract.

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