Threats over 'horse trade' in academics

April 4, 2003

Swansea University academics have threatened action over plans to transfer them to Swansea Institute as part of the push to "reconfigure" Welsh higher education, writes Tony Tysome.

The university has been forced to water down proposals to move its education department to the institute in exchange for law and health sciences after legal advisers for the Association of University Teachers said the plans contravened Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employment (Tupe) regulations.

It will now "lease" rather than transfer 20 full-time staff to the institute for five years. Another 20 part-time staff will still transfer and any staff that leave will be replaced by institute recruits.

Academics condemned the proposals as "horse trading" motivated by Welsh Assembly and funding council requirements for reconfiguration.

They warned that the plans could set a "dangerous" precedent of allowing staff from a "high-grade" research-led institution to be moved to a teaching-led institution with poorer research ratings for the sake of efficiency savings and political aims.

Howard Tanner, AUT representative for the university's education department, said: "The question they have failed to answer is 'what problem is this a solution for?'. The only answer we can see is that they are engaging in horse trading because they have been pressured into reconfiguration."

A university spokesman said the plans were designed to create a new Swansea School of Education to help meet national education teaching and research needs.

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