College employers have released a survey contradicting reports that many institutions have settled the lecturers' contracts dispute by retaining old restrictive employment practices.
Lecturers' unions maintain that many local deals have been struck, undermining attempts to lengthen the working week and year.
But the third national survey by the College Employers Forum shows that overall 70 per cent of lecturing staff have signed new flexible employment contracts.
CEF chief executive Roger Ward predicted that the figure would grow. "Increasing numbers of lecturing staff have now accepted the need to work flexibly and have signed new and more flexible contracts," he said.
However, the CEF survey does find a small number of colleges that do not want all staff to sign new contracts. Staff remaining on old local authority "silver book" agreements operate as "term-time only" lecturers with no pay rises. Some colleges indicated that the savings accrued from the freeze on pay have contributed to balancing their books.
According to the findings, based on returns from 211 colleges, no principals remain on old contracts although two deputy principals do. Just 2 per cent of other management staff remain on the silver book.
The survey reveals that new contracts vary from college to college, although CEF says that "perfectly acceptable modest alterations" to its model contract reflected the diversity of the sector.
There is a warning, however, for those colleges with 100 per cent sign-up rates which are now adopting a more relaxed approach to human resources. "This could be an error," the survey says. "European social legislation has created a plethora of new challenges in the employment arena. These could have the severest impact on college budgets unless handled with care and sensitivity."
Further education is already facing substantial costs arising from the implementation of increased benefits for part-time staff and 1996 is likely to see a rise in equal opportunity claims, according to the survey, which concludes: "Senior managers need to address the ways in which they can support and develop the middle and first-line managers who will deliver the shift in the culture of the college that lies at the heart of the development of new contracts."