The job's yours... actually it's not

October 28, 2005

Gargi Bhattacharyya had already informed Birmingham University that she would be taking a year off and moving to London to take up the post of president of the Association of University Teachers. It therefore came as quite a shock when The Times Higher this week informed her that she would not be able to take up her position as the national figurehead of the union.

Dr Bhattacharyya would have been the first Asian woman president of a trade union, when she stepped into the role next September to lead the AUT into its planned merger with partner union Natfhe.

But as a result of the agreement over the timing of the merger, all posts will be "frozen" from June 2006.

Steve Wharton, the current president, will enjoy an extended period of office during a transitional year before elections to the merged superunion, the Universities and Colleges Union, take place in spring 2007.

Dr Bhattacharyya, whose presidency was expected to be explosive following a string of run-ins with AUT general secretary Sally Hunt, told The Times Higher : "I had no idea that the transitional arrangements would mean that I will never take up my post, and I don't think many people on the executive realise this, let alone the AUT members who voted for me."

Ms Hunt will also see her four-year term of office extended to a fifth year, before having the opportunity to stand for election to the new union in 2007.

An AUT spokesman said that the transitionary arrangements had been agreed in negotiations with Natfhe and were approved by the relevant bodies in the union.

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