Teach-only contract threat

April 2, 1999

The Association of University Teachers has condemned Loughborough University for plans to downgrade staff contracts to improve its research assessment exercise performance.

A circular from the AUT warns that the university is considering a plan to exclude inactive research staff from the next RAE by offering them teaching-only contracts.

The number of research-active staff in a department forms part of the grading criteria used by RAE assessors. It is understood that some 18 per cent of lecturers at Loughborough are not research active, but are included as "returners" in the assessment by nature of their contracts.

The university fears that their inclusion in the exercise will damage RAE grades and lose the university money.

Managers have mooted the idea of recommending that these staff move to new teaching-only contracts "by agreement".

In a circular to staff the AUT said that the proposals had been raised in a recent negotiating committee meeting with the university. "We opposed this strongly on several grounds," it said.

"They wouldn't get away with it anyhow," wrote Russ Bowman, vice-president of Loughborough AUT in the circular. "Members of the RAE panels are all academics and know how the 'fiddles' work."

The union also argued that if the plans were implemented, the affected staff would become "second-class lecturers" and that pressure from management would cast doubt on the voluntary nature of the scheme. It argued that good teaching should always be backed up with research. "The link with good teaching has always been recognised as being connected to research work as well," it said.

The AUT said that instead of being penalised with non-research contracts, the inactive staff should be given proper support. A workload agreement with the university allows variations in time allocated for teaching and research. This could be "varied to facilitate an equal commitment of all colleagues.

"We indicated that the management should take measures to enable all academics to be research active and become RAE-returnable, and to give encouragement and assistance to these staff," said Professor Bowman.

The AUT has advised members to contact the union and decline all offers for contractual changes. "If you feel you may be harassed, ask to take your section head or a departmental colleague with you for discussions," it said.

Liz Spencer, director of publicity at the university, said it was negotiating with the AUT on non-research active staff. "We are talking hypothesis. There is nothing concrete in terms of plans."

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