Conference round-up

June 4, 2004

Right to reflection
Vice-chancellors in new universities are trying to squeeze out the "self-directed time" academics need for research and scholarly activity, Natfhe delegates heard.

The conference carried a motion from Southern Region that reasserted lecturers' right to favourable conditions of service that allowed for such activity.

Southern's Dave Fysh said that academics needed "time to read, time to consider" as an essential part of their role in questioning received wisdom and taking a critical view of the world.

Stop calendar change
Moves by universities to teach throughout the year are undermining lecturers' terms and conditions, the conference agreed.

A motion from Yorkshire and Humberside, defending the standard academic year, was carried unanimously. It said the traditional year "is beneficial to the academic life of universities and colleges, since this reinforced collegiality and participation in democratic processes".

Opposition to fees
Natfhe will "intensify its opposition to variable top-up fees".
Delegates carried a motion stating: "The only fair way to fund higher education is by means of general taxation... variable fees will inevitably force students (from poor backgrounds) into cheap courses in underresourced universities."

It's not personal, Tony
Conference delegates declined to call for the resignation of prime minister Tony Blair. A motion from Southern Region condemning "the handling of higher education funding by new Labour" and expressing outrage "by the Blairite agenda of marketisation and privatisation", was amended to exclude references to Mr Blair.

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