THE new head of lecturers' union Natfhe plans a reshuffle of the organisation to make a clearer divide between universities and colleges.
Paul Mackney, who took over as general secretary last month, denies the move will lead to higher education members migrating to the Association of University Teachers, which this week called for a single union for higher education.
Natfhe policy is to support a single union for all lecturers with two distinct wings, one for universities and HE colleges and the other for further and adult education.
But AUT general secretary David Triesman insists higher and further education have different needs. He said: "I'm not seeking a war. But we are saying to our friends in Natfhe that it is time to take significant steps in reorganising post-school unions."
Mr Triesman said it would mean having "two distinct unions", taking care to ensure Natfhe did not suffer financially by losing about a third of its membership.
In addition, he wants a joint council with representatives from all post-school teaching unions that would present a unified case to government.
The merger with the Association of University and College Lecturers last September has brought the AUT more than 3,000 members in the new universities. Both unions fear this will increase competition between them and lead to instability. Regular talks are taking place between the two, with an official meeting planned for next Tuesday.
Mr Mackney says he wants at least to work together on matters of common concern, such as fixed-term contracts, and to provide some common services.
"On a personal level, if the two unions were to merge, then I haven't any great problem with David as the senior general secretary being general secretary," he said.
Meanwhile, he plans to "sectoralise" Natfhe further, with separate budgets and staff for the two sectors, boosted by a number of cross-departmental teams.
The new structure, which is likely to involve up to ten voluntary redundancies, should be operational by Easter.