Teachers sound recruitment alarm

May 5, 1995

Post-16 education funding is the subject of new reports. Patricia Santinelli reports on the AUT's case for more pay. Higher education might be hit by a staff recruitment crisis because of the "Cinderella" salaries and prospects for academics compared to other professionals, the Association of University Teachers told the Department for Education this week.

In Higher Education: Preparing for the 21st Century, the union's evidence to the public expenditure survey, it says that by the age of 30 accountants might expect to earn Pounds 30,000, and a school teacher Pounds 20,000 but a university academic would be on Pounds 16-18,000.

"It will be increasingly difficult to persuade potential higher education staff that they would not be better off elsewhere," says the report. "The official line from Government is not that funding for higher education is being cut but that efficiency is being increased. An efficiency gain of an infinite number of percentage points could be attained by stopping Government funding altogether, but surely the Government would not argue this is sensible."

The AUT wants the Government to increase salaries at least in line with average non-manual earnings since 1980, which would mean an increase of 31 per cent.

In the case of part-timers, the AUT renews its case for employing such lecturers on fractional contracts with entitlement to pro rata terms for salary and conditions of service. This would mean an increase in direct staff costs, covering not only pay, pension and national insurance contributions but improvements in staff training and child care. The AUT and Natfhe, the university and colleges lecturers' union, estimate this would need a rise of some Pounds 30-Pounds 50 million per year.

The report argues too that quality assessment is becoming counterproductive by wasting resources which should be used to improve teaching and research. It says that more funding should be given to cover costs.

The AUT says that in 1993/94 the overall cost of quality assurance to universities was about Pounds 10 million. This money would have funded about one lecturing post at the bottom of the A scale for each department assessed and one lecturing post at the bottom of the B scale for each department visited.

The AUT has also renewed its attack on the lack of research investment devoted to new universities, which it argues threatens to set the binary divide in concrete. It points out that only Pounds l6.9 million, 2.2 per cent of funding council spending, goes on developing research in the new higher education sector. The research income of the best placed new university is 10 per cent of its total funding, yet the worst placed old institution received l6 per cent.

The association recommends distributing research funds proportionately to research ratings, so that even the least highly rated departments would get some money for research, raising substantially the funding for developing research, and building into the research formula a new forward looking element to fund promising work in areas with no established track records.

* Unison which represents 40,000 blue and white collar workers in higher education launched a campaign this week for a Pounds 20 a week pay rise for non-teaching staff.

Rodney Bickerstaffe, associate general secretary of Unison, said that "poverty" pay in higher education was a national scandal.

"Six-figure pay, pension and perks packages for top dogs in Britain's universities contrast shamefully with pay rates for some starting as low as Pounds 129.90 for a 38-hour week."

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