May 18, 2006

University draws out the sting from the AUT strike

Writing about web page http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/insite/newsandevents/intnews2/NE100000020523/

The University Senate has voted to award degrees if exams aren't marked before graduation. Essentially this means if students have achieved over 70% of their CATS but are lacking some of the rest of the marks, they'll get their full degree based on the 70%. People with less than 70% of their CATS marked will get 'unclassified' degrees, which I take to mean are provisional, but subject to change when the exams are finally marked. This is the same system used when exams are missed due to illness.

I'd applaud the University for taking this rational step. They've effectively drawn the sting out of the tail so that if the AUT continue their strike for several weeks (as seems likely now), then students won't be adversely affected. I challenge the unions to oppose this! I'm sure they'll say that our degrees are being devalued, but the fact of the matter is that we still have to do all the work we would have done before, and our mark will be determined based on how well we've done.

Now the dispute can be settled with less haste and more realism. My suspicion is that the Unions were using the impending exams as a reason to settle soon, and on its terms. Now the University doesn't seem to have that hanging over its head quite so much, I'm sure the two sides will come to a reasonable offer.

And perhaps the Students Union will now see that the University has students' interests at heart (at least on this issue), while the AUT clearly doesn't.


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  1. I would hope like you that the situation is resolved such that people can obtain the degrees they deserve and I understand from our mutal friends on your course than your dept is rather more affected than mine. I would also suspect that for most students having done over 70% of their (marked) CATs is fairly unlikely, I've done 60% prior to this year and with the coursework that I do have back, another 7.5% this year, such that should my degree be affects I would obtain an unclassified degree currently. I don't know many courses that would be in any other position. I do think it would be useful for the university to publish a list of academics taking part in strike action, but can understand why they haven't too.

    However as one lecturer suggested to me yesterday, the best way the lecturers could gain attention would be to withold their expenses and research revenues and so on, totally messing up the university SAP accounting and grabbing their attention in the only way possible, financially, rather than through protest at students. The AUT/Student Union have mentioned at times about universities being run like businesses… doesn't their strike action merely attack the opposite end of the spectrum from the one they complain about?

    18 May 2006, 16:08

  2. I don't like it. This could adversely affect me. I'm counting on my average being pulled up by my final exam, which is one being affected by the AUT action. I'm looking at a 2:2 at the moment; I could potentially drop lower if that final 24 CATS aren't marked.

    18 May 2006, 17:31

  3. They will be marked. What might happen is that you get a provisional 2:2 in July, which is upgraded when the marks are in.

    18 May 2006, 17:48

  4. i thought that an unclassified degree is equivalent to a pass degree and as such isn't much worth the paper its written on

    18 May 2006, 18:42

  5. Laura, the article which Chris Doidge linked to said 'unclassified honours degree,' which presumably is worth more than a pass.

    18 May 2006, 18:59

  6. Steven Hoon

    Hmmm…. i think the lecturers on strike should be shot and replaced asap!!

    more seriously, how do people know if they are being affected. the business school haven't said anything so am i ok to assume all is fine and our lecturers aren't on strike?

    18 May 2006, 22:44

  7. Well I'm happy with the University response, although I'm not a finalist so maybe my opinion isn't as valid. The fact is, finalists will get the degree they deserve as soon as these academics stop being so selfish and actually mark the papers. I think it would be a situation you could quite easily explain to a prospective employer, as long as you could supply fair evidence that your predicted grade is realistic.

    18 May 2006, 22:49

  8. Steven Hoon

    if you have a job lined up but need a grade im pretty sure the employer will be understandable.

    but if you are in direct competiton for a job with someone from another uni with an actual degree of the same classification as your predicted one, then you could get screwed over.

    i dont blame the uni, can't see what else they can do

    lecturers should go and egt proper jobs where they actually do some work if they want to be paid more!!!

    18 May 2006, 22:52

  9. It does seem like the University(s) seem to be making all the moves while the Unions just stamp their feet and hold the students to ransom while they're too unprincipled to actually go on a proper strike. I don't know who the media relations gurus of the lecture's Unions are but they're doing a terrible job. I'd love to have been in the meeting where they discussed what to do when someone chirped in "I know what to do, lets take it out on the nations stressed, debt ridden students who put us in a job" Brilliant! Way to lose the high ground in the debate! I know in some university the lecturers are actually doing the marking but just withholding the marks, why do the work if you're not deliberatly trying to mess up the students.

    As a side note, I liked the way in this weeks Boar there was a full page add by the union telling us what we believe when the majority of us have never been asked! I just hope after this common sense by the Uni the SU and hopefully the NUS change their position and actually do some good rather than adding credence to a half baked strike.

    19 May 2006, 00:23

  10. Jen

    Colin,
    I think the point of doing the marking but then witholding the marks is so that when the action is over they can hand the marks over straight away instead of us students having to wait for them to mark them. Not that that small consider makes up for much.

    19 May 2006, 08:03

  11. Ant

    Jen, I was under the impression from my tutor at least that once the papers are marked the information is then the property of the university, so in theory they could gather them 'by force', so to speak.

    I think most lecturers are just worried that if the AUT call off the strike with, say, 3 days to go before the marks are due they will have 200 scripts to mark in 3 days rather than in 2 weeks.

    19 May 2006, 10:44

  12. On a more sober, market–sense analysis, I see myself as a customer of this university, in a contract with Warwick, while the administration and staff provide a service of education.

    Irrespective of whether the payrise is justified or not, I feel lecturers and other striking staff are hurting those who have little to do with this conflict. Though I'm sure this is the most efficient way of pressurising the administration, this does not help to enhance my sympathy for the strikers.

    On the other hand, I feel that by not resolving the conflict, the administration is denying us the full service that we paid for. If this affects graduating students' future prospects, I think a retribution is not more than fair as it results directly from miserably failing management. Although the "unclassified" degrees solution is a step, it's more like a desperate attempt to patch the admin's failure to sort the problem out properly.

    I'm not graduating, but you who are graduating, complain! Make yourself heard!

    19 May 2006, 11:43

  13. I'm graduating and you know what, no, I won't complain!

    I'm sorry if everyone on here has lived a comfy sheltered life and has never had to go to work in the morning knowing that once there they would be worked to the bone for money which is frankly an insult for what they have to do. Some of us have. Some of us have faced situations where going on strike was really the only option. Some of us have been in that situation without Union protection, when the act of going on strike could easily have cost us our jobs. But it was the last resort, the resort after meeting upon meeting, pleading upon pleading, searching for other jobs and finding none suitable.

    Do you people really think the lecturers want to hurt you? Do you think they've no idea what it's like to be a student, and a finalist especially? Of course they do and the fact they've had to go this far shows how bad the situation is. When train drivers go on strike there are no trains, passengers are affected. When factory workers go on strike no products are built and, along the line, people cannot buy things at a convenient moment. This is what a strike is, a last resort which hurts customers and the company.

    To say you are against this strike (or action short of which is at least allowing us to sit our exams and not delay and have to find accommodation or whatever for longer than we have it already) smacks of being against all strikes and where would we be without them? Working impossible hours on no pay in terrible conditions. I hope no one here complaining ever has to be in the position where a strike is the best plan as if you go on strike then you will be nothing more than hypocrites.

    Sorry for the strong wording, but I am sick and tired of how one sided this debate is on the blogs even though I know it's not so one sided in the University at large.

    19 May 2006, 12:11

  14. Holly, I see your point, but I've not seen anything which suggests this is a measure of last resort. Instead, it seems to be the AUT backing the Universities into a corner at a time of year when they know they are vulnerable, and when the impending merger between the AUT and NAFTHE creates an inevitable competition over which Union will come out on top following the merger.

    This new pay deal isn't to be implemented immediately, and the strike appeared to take Universities by surprise, who thought that negotiations had just begun when the strike was called.

    Besides which I know very few people (besides those on the blogs) who support the current AUT strike – that isn't necessarily to say that they don't want the lecturers to strike per se, but that the way they are striking is more harmful to students than it is to the University.

    19 May 2006, 12:31

  15. Instead, it seems to be the AUT backing the Universities into a corner at a time of year when they know they are vulnerable

    That's what you do. My sources who talked about strikes in their workplaces said they chose a busy week to hit the bosses as that's when they're more likely to listen. The strike's aim is to get people to pay attention and not marking insignificant unassessed essays in September will never do that.

    I know a lot of people see more harm being done to students than the university but students have no way of ending this and so will naturally air their grievences more loudly as it'll affect no one. If the university were to complain out loud the lecturers (and others) could just turn around and say "if you don't like it you can solve it". It is harming the university as it looks bad for them, especially at a time when, with their beloved top–up fees, they're already in a precarious situation anyway (home student numbers are wobbling, not smoothly rising).

    Another chat board I'm a member of has a lecturer as a member and he's written several long and articulate posts which detail how the lecturers feel and they're not happy about this but nor are they happy about their conditions. The guy in question is leaving academia, and we hav all seen the evidence of brain–drain from this country as lecturers leave. I get the impression that this action has beena long time coming.

    19 May 2006, 12:47

  16. Chris, this action is not a sudden thing, it goes back directly to the settlement at the end of the last bout of industrial action by academics in 2004 when certain promises were made which the AUT and NATFHE felt weren't kept. The current pay claim was, as far as I know, put in in October, and the threat of industrial action has been hanging around at least since Christmas. If the universities didn't see this coming (which I find hard to believe) it's an egregious failure of judgement on their part.

    19 May 2006, 13:06

  17. What Holly and Luke said, really. I'm pretty fed up with how comments such as "half baked strike" and "the University has students' interests at heart…the AUT clearly doesn't" are bandied about so readily.

    19 May 2006, 13:31

  18. It is very unfortunate for any finalists who receieve a provisional or unclasified degree this summer. after months of work it is horrible waiting for results. Graduation is in july and i will certainly not go to my ceremony if my mark is not official, as it would just seem silly to celebrate achieving something that is not yet achieved.

    if all finalists make it clear they are going to boycott their graduation ceremonies unless the papers are marked, more pressure will be placed on the university, and perhaps the situation will get resolved quicker.

    if the lecturers want to protest why can't they just stop there research. this means the burden of strike will not be passed on to the students who pay for the service. if graduation marks are not received in time i do think a court would find the university in breach of contract, and our student union should support all affected students by helping them claim some tuition fees back.

    19 May 2006, 13:36

  19. .

    Aside from the fact that the university may have been well informed of the threat of industrial action, and the merits of their cause, surely there are other ways of exercising their case. Alternative methods of placing pressure upon the university, and effectively causing a costly administrative nightmare is a way to do this. Refusing to mark first and second years work, for example, could mean students are enlisted this term onto modules they didn’t qualify for, and could certainly make re–sits in September extremely difficult to orchestrate. This costs the university time and therefore money.

    By refusing to mark finalists work, the potential primary administration hiccup has actually been overcome – i.e the under the new rules passed by the Senate, the graduation ceremonies WILL take place regardless. I for one see the merit in Holly’s argument and I do believe that industrial action has its uses in certain condition. However, the university have found a way around the potential graduation ceremony problem now, and therefore surely the continuation of action short of a strike is doing little to exert the same degree of extensive pressure upon the University and is now causing disproportionately more harm to students? The work will have to be marked eventually, so the University can ensure that eventually everyone will be awarded their degrees, therefore limiting the 'damage' to the university's reputation.

    I had sympathy with the lecturer's case before. I am sorry but I struggle to see what this is now achieving beyond potentially damaging the futures of many students who have all made their own sacrifices in one way or another to complete their degrees and who actually have no control over the expenditure allocation of the University's budget. Lets all hope employers are understanding, and that exam papers don’t get lost or damaged in the interim, but surely this has got to stop, on both sides? Does anyone know how realistic is it that the pay offer will increase if the action continues?

    19 May 2006, 13:49

  20. I'm satisfied with the response. I saw my tutor on wednesday about this, who is fairly in the know about all this as he's the Associate Dean of the school of engineering and was just off to attend the senate meeting when I caught him. We have two confirmed and one possible striker in engineering, and his predictions were between 3 and 6 (although as with other departments they don't know until the lecturer in question doesn't turn up to something they should have, say exam invigilation) and therefore by default declare their strike action. This is causing departments a real headache. But yes, the response the university has put forward is about the best it can muster in the circumstances I feel, and we can hardly ask for much better. We're in a considerably better position than some other universities that have been much harder hit by strike action, so I don't think anyone has any cause to complain at the university for this response. Personally I feel it's downright irresponsible of academics to put people's degrees in jeaprody like this. I fail to see how the AUT has student's interests at heart when they're putting their own self–interests above seriously screwing around with finalists.

    19 May 2006, 13:53

  21. If you are caused serious problems by the University or its staff, whether as a result of industrial action or anything else, do contact the Students' Union as we will try to help. If your problems are with academic work (as will be the case for people effected by industrial action) contact the Education Officer and Deputy President Brian Duggan (education@sunion.warwick.ac.uk); on other issues contact either the Union's Advice and Welfare Services (advice@sunion.warwick.ac.uk) or the Welfare and Equal Opportunities Officer Doug Kelley (welfare@sunion.warwick.ac.uk).

    In some cases where you might not expect us to give direct assistance, the Union may be able to put you in contact with others who can assist you even in cases where it can't do so directly itself.

    19 May 2006, 14:00

  22. Even if you personally feel that the ultimate responsibility for any inconvienience to you due to industrial action does not lie with the University, it is with them that you have a contract and as a result it is to them who you should complain.

    19 May 2006, 14:02

  23. I'm pretty fed up with how comments such as "half baked strike" and "the University has students' interests at heart
    …the AUT clearly doesn't" are bandied about so readily.

    Joe, you might have a point if such statements weren't being 'bandied about' but being backed up with reasons and arguments.

    19 May 2006, 14:13

  24. However, the university have found a way around the potential graduation ceremony problem now, and therefore surely the continuation of action short of a strike is doing little to exert the same degree of extensive pressure upon the University and is now causing disproportionately more harm to students?

    The university has to some extent alleviated the problems caused to it by the action short of strike, but it should be noted that the problem won't go away, and people will still want classifications so the situation will still need to be resolved. As far as I can see, what's happened is that the university has decided that the industrial action won't be settled soon so they'll have to make alternative arrangements.

    19 May 2006, 14:15

  25. Joe, you might have a point if such statements weren't being 'bandied about' but being backed up with reasons and arguments.

    Nobody has backed up the "fact" that it is a half baked strike, in fact no one has really addressed why the lecturers are striking at all, apart from dismissing it out of hand. Likewise no one has proven that the university has any interests other than trying to keep down bad publicity and prevent the strike succesfully raising wages to the level that is being demanded.

    19 May 2006, 14:20

  26. You could also copy in internalcomms@warwick.ac.uk and then the University can follow up issues too.

    Often a joint approach helps!*

    I don't often wade into these things, preferring to keep my professional role seperate from my personal comments, but sometimes I think it's important.

    *Disclaimer: This comment is in no way related to the current dispute and negotiations!

    19 May 2006, 14:22

  27. Sorry – got in there too late – the above comment is in relation to Nick Young's comment (number 21).

    19 May 2006, 14:24

  28. I agree with the Hoon and will certainly not be attending the grauation ceremony should be my official grade be unknown. The major point for me is that my second year marks were absolute shite and if an employer should base his decision on whether or not to hire me on these then I would not stand a chance of getting a job I might otherwise have been offered.

    I think it would be a great show of unity if all finalists buoycoted the ceremony as this threat of bad press would surely help bring about action.

    19 May 2006, 14:55

  29. .

    Luke, I agree, a resolution is still needed and that the alternative arrangements will not make the problem go away.

    Having said that, it will have taken a substantial weight of the pressure off, and subsequently is no longer backing the university as tightly into a corner, which was pretty much the aim right? I wonder how long they can reasonably take to issue every single remaining degrees. My guess is they can continue to buy themselves weeks upon weeks with this one. Although, I am probably not as informed as you so could be wrong.

    19 May 2006, 14:56

  30. I agree that by letting themselves being taken by surprise over this strike, the university administration made a serious miscalculation. Of course the admin are for a great part to blame for the current situation as they clearly let it escalate too far already.

    However, looking at the broader picture of bad working conditions that Holly Cruise (13) describes, there must be more sides to the discontent than salary. What, for example, about the much–complained–about RAE that forces academics to bang out papers to keep up with the academic rat race? Papers that are then rated through an untransparent system, much to the frustration of academics far beyond Warwick.

    19 May 2006, 15:28

  31. Maarten, the RAE is being scrapped after the 2008 round, although I suspect that you'd probably find more agreement between university administrations and academics about the RAE than you might expect.

    Anon, I don't know how long the university can go on without awarding full degrees; theoretically it could go on until next summer (when in many subjects the lack of sufficient marks would make it impossible to award even unclassified honours degrees), although I shouldn't imagine that either the academics or the university will want that to happen.

    19 May 2006, 15:46

  32. Of course the admin are for a great part to blame for the current situation as they clearly let it escalate too far already.

    Like Casey, I will word my words carefully.

    Remember that this is a national dispute. I'm not sure statements like the above are terribly easy to apply in cases where the decisions being taken are at a national level (on both fronts, employers and union) rather than a local one.

    19 May 2006, 17:28

  33. The AUT are quite in right in taking action as they were promised something by the university who then reneged on the promise. However there were three basic choices they could make on how to proceed:
    1) Action short of a strike in stopping setting and marking exams – ie. screwing the students, which is what they did.
    2) Action short of a strike in stopping all research work, paper publication and administrative work – ie. screwing themselves and potentially damaging thier career in the short term, but if things are so bad it's something they should be willing to do.
    3) A full strike incorporating both of the above: if they'd have done this I'd at least have had some respect for them for putting themselves in a simmilary tough position to the students.

    But they went with number 1 which is the action that really screws us which is fine, that's thier choice. It just pisses me off when we're told we should support them in a show of solidarity instead of just condeming the strike and shafting them in the same unapologetic way they've shafted us.

    Two wrongs might not make a right but if your partner sleeps with someone else you don't try and fix the problem by encouraging them to keep doing it until they've got it out of thier system

    20 May 2006, 00:57

  34. Matthew

    Dean, you are quite wrong to say that stopping research would be an equally viable course of action. There are three parts to any academic's job: research, teaching and admin. The first two parts of the job are enjoyable and important. The third is boring and unimportant. Setting and marking examinations is admin work, not teaching work. Nobody's education gets harmed if exams are not marked.

    Meanwhile, I am baffled by the new university regulation. It appears to have abolished the requirement for exam boards to be quorate! Thus it is quite possible that your degree classification this year will be awarded by a committee of one person, looking at only 70% of your degree, without the moderation of an external examiner. My suggestion to finalists: make sure you haven't annoyed any of your lecturers this year, as they might be the only person who gets to decide what your classification is.

    20 May 2006, 10:56

  35. student@warwick

    Dean:

    "The AUT are quite in right in taking action as they were promised something by the university who then reneged on the promise."

    Weren't the AUT promised pay rises totalling 1/3 of the top–up fees?

    http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/insite/newsandevents/intnews2/NE1000000201392/

    "Warwick stands by its long standing commitment: a third on staff, a third on financial support for students, a third for student facilities and learning."

    Granted I'm slightly confused by "In short, the University will certainly be spending the equivalent of well over a third of the additional income from fees on student facilities." but I'm assuming they're lumping some of the student financial support into that.

    Am I missing something over this strike? Is the AUT just gunning for more money over and above this? Are we being screwed over due to pay disputes at other institutions?

    20 May 2006, 11:12

  36. I agree with Holly

    20 May 2006, 13:46

  37. Steven Hoon

    are any other finalists concerned that this years degrees could be somewhat undervalued as a result of this. some people may regard degrees classified based on only 70% of marks as a bit soft

    21 May 2006, 00:05

  38. Steven, once the strike is over, the full classification will be known, and if it's a class above that awarded, it'll be adjusted accordingly.

    21 May 2006, 12:17

  39. Steven Hoon

    cheers luke. what if the late marks make the degree a class lower, will they get put down?

    21 May 2006, 12:49

  40. Nope

    It is important to stress that, in the case of students who receive a classified degree and whose marks are then reconsidered, the new Regulation stipulates that any changes to the degree class awarded can only be to the student?s benefit, i.e. there will be no lowering of degree classifications.

    21 May 2006, 12:58

  41. John

    Steve, i too am a little concerned about our degrees potentially being undervalued. One module on our course is probably going to have an exam set by external people probably based on a collection of questions from past papers, considering a lot of topics on these past papers have not been covered then we could be screwed.

    TBH this strike argument getting a bit out of proportion. The action of the lecturers could potentially impact the entire future of many students but the pay rise is just gonna give them a few extra dollars in their pockets. The worst case for the lecturers would be to not get any pay rise and if money is such an issue then go find work elsewhere.

    21 May 2006, 16:49

  42. The worst case for the lecturers would be to not get any pay rise and if money is such an issue then go find work elsewhere.

    Do you really want that to happen? There's already a problem in this country of a lot of bright academics going to the US; surely we don't want to lose even more of them because they're not paid enough to keep them.

    21 May 2006, 17:07

  43. Well, they're going to have to settle on something. If UCEA really CAN'T go above the 12.6% offer, where does that leave the union negotiators? They can't stay on strike for ever.

    21 May 2006, 17:20

  44. John

    "Do you really want that to happen?" – well I don't really want it to happen but I would prefer it to the situation we have at the moment. The strike etc., is perhaps going to cause a reduction in the number of foreign students coming here with many choosing the US anyway.

    And if this strike is successful, what happens in a couple of years? oh look we will go on strike again, it worked before and will work again. True, no doubt lecturers here are paid less than other countries but are they just in this for the money? is the money they are getting paid so low they are struggling to make ends meet? I doubt it. They were offered a reasonable deal but chose to reject it? Up until that point I was nonplussed as to what they were doing because hell yeah sure they have a right to try and push for higher pay but now what they are doing is just greedy and it is unfair to the students who they claim to care so much about.

    Holly said earlier "Of course they do and the fact they've had to go this far shows how bad the situation is." what bad situation? I don't really see how you can call getting paid about £40 000 a year a bad situation. Sure it is not great but its still way above the average earning in the UK. I call the 10 million or so people living below the poverty line in ths country a bad situation not this. I just wish people would put things into a bit more perspective.

    21 May 2006, 18:45

  45. If degree marks derived from 70% of marks can only be upgraded rather than downgraded when all the marks are in, this amendment will lead to an overall rise in the number of high–class degree classifications.

    The university claims that this will not affect standards, but by making it easier to get good degrees (with poor late marks not affecting the overall result) the academic rigour of university education is undermined.

    A degree should be awarded only on the basis of consistent excellence. This solution is a fudge – a possibly necessary one – but a poor outcome. Downgraded final classifications should have been considered.

    22 May 2006, 12:12

  46. Sam

    I am going to join the controversy and say that I am sincerely losing patience and sympathy with being used as a tugging rope between these two.

    For those of you who aren't aware, the lecturers (one can assume in conjunction with AUT directions) are setting up stalls randomly around campus to keep us 'really' informed about what is going on with thie industrial action. And oh yes, you can bet your bottom dollar (haha, interesting turn of phrase..its staying!) that this culminates at the end of the week with a protest rally in conjunction with..you guessed it, our students union.

    They aim to counteract the university's misguided messages thus far and, at the height of the finalists examination period, fuel the flames a little more with their side of the story (which has been unsurprisingly a long time coming from any lecturers thus far). Im sorry, but whatever side you are on, you have got to be losing patience with this, and for those of you who don't believe this is selfishness presiding, I would encourage you to look at the wonderful timing of such stunts.

    22 May 2006, 20:46

  47. Just for everyone's info, here are the arguments put forward by the respective sides at Union Council:

    "Mr D Beaton spoke on behalf of the University of Warwick Personnel Services

    Mr D Beaton thanked members for inviting him to the meeting. Mr Beaton outlined the position of the University in light of the AUT submission for a 23 – 24% pay rise over a three year period. The University is required to take into account legal issues and the future structure of academic staff. From a starting salary of £31,500 a year, the rise would increase the current salary to £45,000 per annum. Those looking for jobs recognise that salaries are not significantly low for professional groups. The University aims to have the best academic staff, there are things to do to improve, but how far without a significant harmful affect on the wider University community? The AUT have put forward the claim based on increased University funding from top up fees, coming in from September 2006. As an academic community it was agreed two or three years ago to split income in three ways, one third directly towards student bursaries and student hardship, one third on facilities, again going directly back to students into increased resources, and one third going towards staff costs to include extra staff and increased salaries to attract good quality academic staff. The University turnover is approximately £300 million, only £5 million coming in from variable fees in September, each 1% that is added to the pay roll costs the University £2 million, with the proposed rise the University could be looking at an accumulated deficit of £70–80 million. The only way to bridge this would be to re–think the commitment to student bursaries, facilities and the number of staff we have. We need to enter into constructive dialogue a balance between the two positions of the University and the AUT, if the University accepts what is proposed there will be difficult decisions to be made which will affect the community and the interests of student in coming years.

    Ms Anne Marie Green spoke on behalf of the University of Warwick branch of the AUT

    Donald and myself get on very well and have a good relationship, the issue is a national pay dispute, but there seems to be a gap of understanding. The claim has been based on figures the University can afford, it is for this University and Universities nationally to take the issue to their employers association to say what they can and can’t afford. Over the last years salaries have declined by 40%. The academic team is not just lecturers it is library staff, computer staff and teaching only staff. Starting salaries are approximately £20,000 for these position against a graduate starting salary in law or accounting of £30 – 35,000, the academic team will not get that after working 10 – 15 years. The claim was brought to the UCEA (University and Colleges Employers Association) in October, the only time it would not effect students, UCEA did not negotiate with us until recently, UCEA have led us to this situation, not particularly Warwick. The VC recently announced a 20% deduction from lecturers pay for those supporting the boycott. Do not underestimate the difficult situation the lecturers find themselves in, they do not want to hurt the students. Students need their exams marked to graduate with a degree, if 20% is deducted from salaries it would lengthen the dispute. The University have proposed to bring in casual assessors and markers, they would have difficulty finding qualified people to do this, I would be worried if I were a student, it puts Warwick degrees in jeopardy. On Warwick Bloggs students are saying we are selfish, we understand your degrees are important, but what else can we do? You are our only voice, the campaign is for the future of higher education, if you support us it will have a strong impact on the Universities to force the UCEA to come to the negotiation table.

    22 May 2006, 23:15

  48. This sounds like the usual story of each side twisting the figures to suit their argument: the university claims that the starting salary is £30k, the union £20k. I can only assume that they're quoting the figures before and after tax (although it's news to me that tax amounts to a third of total income), unless one side is fabricating them. I know which I'd believe.

    Let's do some sums:

    16,175 students (figure taken from university website) x £3000 tuition fees = £48,525,000

    Amount the university has pledged to put into raising academics' pay = 1/3 x £48,525,000 = £16,175,000

    Total of £16,175,000 / 1,128 academic staff (ditto) = £14,339.54

    That seems like rather a lot, probably the sums are a bit over–simplistic and there are other things I haven't taken account of.

    Incidentally, is Warwick Bloggs any relation to Joe Bloggs?

    22 May 2006, 23:15

  49. Good, I'm glad they read it. I just spent an hour complaining/ranting about a letter that very person published on the WBS website. It's nice to know they're actually NOT deluded enough to think we all support them.

    23 May 2006, 01:16

  50. Michael – the amount of income available next year from top up fees will not be all 16,175 students, only joining first years. I'd expect the income to be more like £13 million, and that's assuming that all students have to pay the £3,000 and that numbers of students aren't significantly affected. I'm not sure if this is the case, as I don't know a great deal about how the new Top–Up fee system works. There is scope for further pay–rises as more and more students are paying the new fees, but to demand it in one lump is unreasonable.

    It's nice to know we're being read yes. But look at what this person says and then contradicts herself in the very next sentence:

    "Do not underestimate the difficult situation the lecturers find themselves in, they do not want to hurt the students. Students need their exams marked to graduate with a degree…"

    How exactly they are "not hurting students" by not marking and setting exams is beyond me. I support the motion that some academics are under–funded and deserve a better pay deal, but there are other ways of putting pressure on the university – such as research funding havoc as discussed above.

    23 May 2006, 09:32

  51. The difference between the amounts claimed by the University and the AUT as starting saleries arise because the University is stating the starting salery of a lecturer (£30,000) and the AUT the starting salery of a postdoctoral reasearch assistant or postdoctoral research fellow (£20,000). As it's pretty much impossible to be a lecturer without being a PDRA or PDRF for a number of years, I'd say the real starting salery is the lower figure. For comparison, the take home pay for a PDRA can actually be significantly lower than that for a fully funded sponsored PhD student in some of the sciences.

    It's probably true that pay isn't a major factor in people deciding whether or not to stay in academia after a PhD, for someone in their mid–twenties without children it's not that low and not that much lower than what most people can find elsewhere. However, that pay for someone ten or so years into their career, when there's much more chance they have children, is still only in the region of £30,000 is much more of a potential problem; this is especially true with an international market and where those from some disciplines can at least double their pay by leaving academia.

    23 May 2006, 10:09

  52. OK, let's say the real starting salary is the lower figure. That means the salaries of Postdoctoral research fellows or assistants are being taken into consideration. Now, AUT as far as understood, stands for "Association of University Teachers". Since Postdoctoral research fellows don't become lecturers until later, how can they be considered "teachers"? And if they can't, it seems that the AUT are using them to try and twist the figures and make them sound worse than they are. Effectively they're fighting a cause on behalf of people who aren't members of their union.

    Of course, I could be wrong – do Postdocs get considered as "teachers" and are eligible to join the AUT?

    23 May 2006, 13:10

  53. Correction. Ignore that last post – researchers are eligible for membership.

    23 May 2006, 13:23

  54. Benjamin: AUT membership is open to

    • academics
    • researchers (including Medical Research Council staff)
    • administrators
    • computer staff
    • librarians
    • and postgraduates employed to do teaching or related work.

    So it includes a range of staff who don't fit the 'teacher' category. It's this whole group the AUT are representing, not only those in the first bullet point.

    23 May 2006, 16:20

  55. Yeah, I read that on the AUT website, hence comment 53. Sorry, should have been clearer.

    23 May 2006, 19:39

  56. So have the computer staff, librarians etc. been on strike too? I hadn't noticed any disruption – at least, in the case of Resnet, no more than usual.

    OK, let's take the situation three or four years down the line, when the income from top–up fees will have reached the maximum, so the university will have £16m or thereabouts for pay increases. If this is to be split among all the above mentioned – 1128 academics, 707 researchers, chuck in a few admin staff and others and call it 2000 or so total – that's £8k each. Stick that onto the salary of an experienced lecturer and it's considerably below the figure the AUT is demanding; onto that of a PDRA just starting and it's over. Avergae it out and it probably comes to something about the same – but, as mentioned, that's in the long term. The AUT can't expect 23% to drop out of the sky tomorrow.

    25 May 2006, 18:03

  57. AJ Brown

    An Emergency General Meeting has been called to discuss the Students' Union's stance on the AUT strike action.

    I would encourage all of you to come. It is Monday 25th June (Week 8) at 7pm in the Ramphal Lecture Theatre.

    26 May 2006, 14:55

  58. AJ Brown

    Oops that's meant to say 5th June!

    26 May 2006, 15:44


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