Higher Education E Bulletin- Issue 30 – May 2008

  • National pay negotiations
  • Tuition fees favour the rich – new study
  • Quality of Working Life Survey
  • Physics funding and the future of science
  • Unite submission to the RCUK review of physics
  • TUC science policy report – Hybrid Cars & Shooting Stars
  • Skills for schools
  • HESA pay data released
  • Irish University heads warn of crisis through lack of funding
  • Raising the Professional Profile of Technical/Specialist Staff
  • Watch Your Step in Education website

National pay negotiations
Members should be receiving the benefit of the third year part of the JNCHES deal for May 08 (3% or £420). There is one further element to come in October 08 when the scales will be raised by the September RPI. Currently the April RPI stands at 4.2% (as opposed to the CPI rate of 3% that the Government use).

All JNCHES unions will be preparing claims shortly for the next anniversary date 1st August 2009 and traditionally negotiations on these take place early in the new year. So far no union has forwarded a claim and Unite delegates to the Education Sector Conference will be considering the union’s position at the sector conference on the 4th June followed by the HENIC meeting on 3rd July.

As per the new JNCHES agreement discussions with UCEA on the full timetable for submission and negotiations on pay will commence in July 2008.

So far UCU have not reached agreement on acceptance of the new JNCHES agreement and UCEA have written to UCU on the matter. Further details of UCEA’s position can be found here.

Tuition fees favour the rich – new study
A new study by the Sutton Trust shows the impact of student fees on low income families.

Students’ choices about studying in Higher Education:

  • 59% of students that were not pursuing university reported that avoiding debt had ‘much’ or ‘very much’ affected their decision.
  • 42% pf students from families earning less than £35,000 a year would consider a local university.
  • 20% of students from families earning less than £35,000 a year were undecided whether to go to a local university.
  • 56% of students that had applied to university were planning or considering a local university.
  • 75% of students planning or considering a local university were intending to live with parents/guardians.
  • 72% of students intending to live at home cited a desire to minimise debt as ‘important’ or ‘very important’.

Quality of Working Life Survey
Last year Unite supported a survey conducted by the Applied Psychology Unit (APU) of the University of Portsmouth that was attempting to establish a national benchmark for Quality of Working Life (QoWL) across the higher education sector

Some key findings:

QoWL Core Scale

  • 44% of Unite (Amicus) members agreed that they are satisfied with their overall Quality of Working Life, which is very close to the average for the university union sector benchmark.
  • Unite (Amicus) members report much less extreme stress (48%) compared to the benchmark group (59%).
  • Respondents reported much lower Job Careers Satisfaction (38%) and perceived Control at Work (37%) in comparison to the benchmark data (49% and 56% respectively).

QoWL Workplace Outcome Scale

  • 83% of Unite (Amicus) staff felt in the last year that they had performed well in their job.
  • 61% of employees agree or strongly agree that their relationships with colleagues are as good as they would wish them to be, compared to 67% of the benchmark sample.
  • 47% of members agreed that their work was as interesting and varied as they would like, compared to 64% of the benchmark group
  • Only 12% of respondents thought their organisation communicated well with them, compared to 26% of the benchmark sample.

HSE Work-Related Stress Scale

  • Unite (Amicus) members reported a much higher sense of Control over how they work than the HSE benchmark sample.
  • Only 35% of respondents reported high satisfaction with Managerial support compared to 52% of the benchmark sample.
  • Compared to the HSE benchmark, members felt that Change was less well managed and communicated by the organisation.
  • The Peer Support factor showed a much lower level of satisfaction with relationships with colleagues than was found in the HSE benchmark data set.

Organisation Specific Questions

  • The majority of respondents agree with the statements: “My employer is supportive of me joining a trade union” and “My trade union is given adequate facility time to consult and represent me”.
  • 20% of respondents said they had pursued a grievance.
  • 39% of Unite (Amicus) members said they would be interested in receiving more information about how to achieve a better quality of working life. Read a copy of the full survey report

Physics funding and the future of science
Many will be aware that since January there have been major concerns about the future of physics courses and physics infrastructure in the UK.

Unite has been working hard to try and challenge some of the decisions made by the funding council STFC and also support any members effected by the changes.

The Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills committee has now released its report that takes into account many of the issues that Unite has been raising. Read the report.

Unite submission to the RCUK review of physics

Unite has also made a submission to the RCUK review of physics lead by Bill Wakeham Vice Chancellor of Southampton university. Read the submission.

TUC science policy report – Hybrid Cars and Shooting Stars
The TUC has released a new report – Hybrid Cars and Shooting Stars – urges ministers to keep prioritising science. It says funds must be found to protect important science projects and ensure that the science community can continue to use its expertise and skills to benefit the UK economy.

Hybrid Cars and Shooting Stars also calls on scientists to do more to increase public understanding of their work and suggests the holding of science summits across the UK, where schools, politicians and scientists could debate key issues such as climate change and medical research.

Lastly it talks about broadening the appeal of science across the board – encouraging more people to get involved with science through school and lifelong learning. At the same time the report emphasises the need to bring more women and underrepresented groups into science. Read the report.

Skills for schools

The T&G section of Unite are members of the Skills 4 Schools campaign. That is calling for a national career pathway and training for technicians and administrative staff working in schools and further education. To find out more about the campaign click here:

HESA pay data released
Unite members will be aware that there is currently a review of pay and financial data going on through JNCHES. One issue that has come up regularly in this review is that the level of data available for non-academic roles is inferior to that of academic staff due to the way that data has been historically collected. This is something that Unite and other unions are seeking to correct.

There has however been a recent release in the Times Higher of pay data for academics and Vice Chancellors in all universities.

Unite would be interested to hear how these compare to other staff in your institutions so please send any information or comments that you have to James Lazou

Irish University heads warn of crisis through lack of funding
Irish Universities face a funding crisis and risk falling well behind international competitors, according to the leaders of the State’s two leading colleges.

In an unprecedented move, UCD president Dr Hugh Brady and TCD provost Dr John Hegarty have joined forces to highlight the “major funding deficit” facing Irish universities by comparison with international competitors.

The university heads say the system is lurching towards crisis due to several factors including: that core funding per student has been reduced by over 33 per cent since 1995; maintenance and upgrading of the physical infrastructure of universities has “virtually ground to a halt through lack of funding”; student/staff ratios in competing states like Scotland or Denmark are now four times better than Ireland, and operating budgets in these countries are “between two and three times those available here”.

It is understood that a majority of the seven universities in the State now operate with a substantial budget deficit, totalling more than €25 million this year. This is expected to deteriorate further next year as cuts in core funding take effect.

Click here to read the full article in the Irish Times

Raising the Professional Profile of Technical/ Specialist Staff
(A one day joint HEaTED/IST Conference)


Among the speakers already confirmed for this event are: John Perkins, (Dean and Vice President, University Manchester/Chair of the HEATED project), Jacqueline Goodall, University of Leeds , John Robinson, (Chair IST), Bob Hardwick (HEaTED Project Consultant) Matt Levi (HEaTED Project Manager).

Venue: Whitworth Hall, University of Manchester .
Date: Tuesday, 10th June 2008 .
Fee: £75.00 per delegate inclusive of coffee/tea and lunch.
£60.00 per delegate if nominating 5 delegates or more.

Completed nomination forms should be returned by Friday 2nd May 2008 to:

Wendy Mason, Institute of Science & Technology, 90 Rockingham Street , Sheffield S1 4EB or fax: 0114 272 6354

Click here for the flyer:

Watch Your Step in Education website
55% of all accidents in education are caused by a slip or a trip. Last year, almost 2000 major injury slip and trip accidents in the education sector were reported to the Health and Safety Executive, 571 of which were to employees, a 5% rise on the previous year. 90% of major accidents resulted in a broken bone causing considerable personal distress and a significant amount of time away from work.

The website contains resources used in the popular HSE course that has been running over the last year:

  • 31% of students intending to go to university reported that avoiding debt had ‘much ‘or ‘very much’ affected their decisions about where to study.
    Read the full report. Also two related articles on the Guardian website: FIRST ARTICLESECOND ARTICLE
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