Diverse motions: uncertain ratios and attacks on standing snout-to-snout

A diverse range of motions at the University and College Union congress covered worries over student-to-staff ratios, vice-chancellors standing "snout-to-snout in the trough" against their employees, and a bid to annul the general election result.

June 2, 2011

Several motions committed the union to carrying out research on grass-roots professional concerns, including the research profiling of individual academics and job insecurity for fixed-contract staff.

The union's higher education committee put forward a motion on the student-to-staff ratio calculation used by the Higher Education Statistics Agency.

The calculation "assumes that all of the time of academic staff on a teaching-and-research contract is spent on teaching", states the motion, which was carried.

A more accurate measure would help campaigns "to increase teaching staff numbers and to reduce current stressfully high levels of staff workload", says the motion, which commits the HEC to producing an accurate measure "at an institutional and cost-centre level".

The University of Hull's motion on "vice-chancellors and solidarity" urged cooperation with other bodies on developing alternative funding models that improve on current government policy. The motion, which was carried, notes "the lack of solidarity displayed by vice-chancellors in anticipation of and in reaction to the coalition government's funding cuts".

By contrast, they had "stood shoulder-to-shoulder - or at least snout-to-snout in the trough - to oppose their staff over pensions, pay and job security", said Helen MacCarthy of the Hull branch.

Another motion criticised the government's visa restrictions for overseas students.

Mike Cushman, of the London School of Economics branch, told congress that the Conservative Party's election pledge to reduce immigration had sought "good Daily Mail headlines by kicking overseas students" and was an attempt to "corral racists into their natural home in the Conservative Party".

A motion from the Sheffield Hallam University branch said that the coalition government "has no democratic mandate" and invited congress to call for "a new general election to be held in order to halt the cuts".

But the bid to rewrite electoral history was strangled in its infancy, as the motion was defeated.

john.morgan@tsleducation.com.

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