Patronage splits unions

April 2, 1999

Scotland's two main higher education unions are set to clash over the role of the Scottish Parliament at this month's annual Scottish Trades Union Congress.

The Association of University Teachers Scotland has submitted a motion calling for Scottish Office funding for research projects to be channelled through a Scottish research council.

The AUTS says this would complement the existing United Kingdom research councils, with projects open to academics in and outside Scotland, showing that the parliament wanted the best quality advice from wherever.

But the Educational Institute of Scotland wants Scottish Office research funding to be channelled through a parliamentary committee, which the AUTS says could threaten academic freedom.

David Bleiman, AUT assistant general secretary, said: "This would replace an unsatisfactory system of patronage by civil servants with a worse system of patronage by politicians."

But Ian McKay, EIS assistant secretary, said the hope was that committees would have access to external expertise to inform them. Research funds would not necessarily go to academic institutions: for example, voluntary organisations might research poverty.

"It can't always be jobs for the boys," he said.

The AUTS also wants to amend an EIS motion, excising references to the parliament having "control" over all aspects of Scottish education, and setting up an "education and employability committee".

It also opposes an EIS call for the parliament to set up a framework for collective national bargaining for higher education staff.

"AUTS welcomes the Scottish dimension, but has had pledges of support for pay review from the Scottish National Party, the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish Conservatives," Mr Bleiman said.

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