THE COMMITTEE of Vice Chancellors and Principals is reviewing the future of the universities' pay bargaining body and may recommend its revamping or scrapping.
The threat to the Universities and Colleges Employers Association reflects increasing tension as more universities announced job losses this week. One midlands university has decided to ignore the pay deal rather than sack staff.
A CVCP review group, chaired by Sir Graeme Davies, Glasgow University vice chancellor, is to meet later this month and is expected to report on UCEA by May 9.
Committee member Peter Knight, vice chancellor of the University of Central England, said that the UCEA's handling of recent pay negotiations had caused great concern among vice chancellors.
The CVCP had been kept in the dark about the two-year 5.8 per cent settlement struck between the UCEA and the unions, said Dr Knight. The result has been that some universities simply cannot afford to pay, causing friction between unions and managers.
Dr Knight said: "No one really realised we were going for a two-year settlement and there is also the fact of the half-promise of a pay review body. There is a distinct lack of confidence about the settlement among vice chancellors and it may be that the CVCP committee will recommend the scrapping of the UCEA. The difficulty is that in the current and foreseeable economic climate there is so little work for an agency like the UCEA."
Dr Knight foresees an end to national pay bargaining given that universities are receiving more of their income from sources other than the Government. He said: "If universities wish to celebrate their autonomy and independence they should be responsible for determining pay individually."
Sir Graeme said: "There is a clear recognition that the sector is so much more diverse that to expect a single body to cater for different groups of interest is probably impractical."
Repercussions of the pay settlement have erupted into open hostility at the University of Derby. Natfhe, the lecturers' union, has called for an academic boycott in protest at the offer of 2.2 per cent for this year and a review of next year's award. Roger Waterhouse, the vice chancellor said it was a straight choice between a lower pay offer or redundancies. "There is simply no fat in the system. We have a fixed amount of money. We can't afford to let someone in London decide how many redundancies we should declare", he said.
The University of East London is taking the opposite tack. It plans to shed 81 jobs in order to avoid a Pounds 2 million projected deficit.
Spokeswoman Christine Hodgson said that, on top of revenue and capital cuts, the university had been hit by proposed changes to the Teachers Superannuation Scheme. UEL is required to build a Pounds 4.5 million reserve to cover costs of early retirement.
It is expected that ancillary staff will bear the brunt of the job losses. Managers are confident that the vast majority will be achieved voluntarily. The lecturers' union claims the university's Pounds 80 million Docklands Campus project is distorting budgeting.