Three internal contenders are likely to stand for the post of general secretary of the Association of University Teachers alongside any external applicants, writes Phil Baty.
Brian Everett, north-west regional assistant general secretary, Sally Hunt, assistant general secretary responsible for equal opportunities and Penny Holloway, a member of the executive and a lecturer at the University of Ulster, did not deny their interest this week.
Another potential candidate is Tom Wilson, the universities chief at lecturers' union Natfhe, who is expected to campaign for the merger of the two unions.
The AUT executive will back an official candidate at the end of November after advertisements and interviews. Their candidate can only be opposed by an AUT member and will be appointed unless an internal opponent emerges. If this happens, the post will be confirmed in March after a ballot of members.
The salary of between £55,000 and £70,000 a year may not be attractive enough for high-calibre outsiders. The general secretary of the National Union of Teachers earns £79,000 plus more than £8,000 in benefits. The chief of the National Association of Head Teachers earns £81,000 plus more than £13,000 in benefits. However, Paul Mackney earns just £43,214 as general secretary of Natfhe, a figure he has kept low deliberately.
The advertisement for the post stresses the AUT is looking for someone who "will demonstrate the ability to lead the union in a period of change".
It has been suggested that this signals a move towards a more confrontational and campaigning style, in contrast to former general secretary David Triesman's more behind-the-scenes approach.
Some members were frustrated at the union's failure to join industrial action over pay earlier this year when the eight other higher education unions took successful action.