The Association of University Teachers has rejected industrial action, including exam disruption and refusal to process student applications, in protest at the budget cuts to university funding. Instead members of the policy-making council, meeting in London last week, voted for an unprecedented alliance with vice chancellors to press the Government to reverse the cuts.
However, some AUT members expressed deep reservations about getting too close to the Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals. Alan Waton of Bradford University, for instance, said the move meant members would be "shackling themselves to the enemy".
AUT executive member Paul Cottrell said the association was realistic about the alliance with vice chancellors, which had never been tried before despite several attempts to organise collaboration. "We realise at some point this may clash with our salary claim and if that happens it may be difficult to separate out the arguments," he said. "But this issue is so serious we really are united and on the same side."
Differences of approach to the same problem were already apparent this week, however, as the vice chancellors' proposal to introduce a one-off student levy did not receive support from the AUT. Mr Cottrell said: "Although we are sympathetic to the CVCP over this we feel it is a bad idea. The blame clearly lies with the Government."
Withdrawal from quality audit procedures was more likely to gain support from AUT members although some felt the move could be a public relations disaster. "People might start asking what we have to hide," Mr Cottrell said.
The council said it deplored the failure of all the political parties to produce satisfactory policies to secure higher education's future. Some universities were likely to make hasty and ill-judged decisions in the absence of any remedies and council called on its members to work closely with their university managements to head off policies which would do irreparable damage to institutions - by destroying quality education through job losses and deteriorating pay.
The council approved the draft 1996/97 pay claim which does not specify a percentage rise at this stage. Attempts to introduce measures to submit a claim for a flat-rate increase of Pounds 3,000 on all salary points or a 10 per cent rise were defeated.