May 24, 2006

You want some Latino Heat?

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear…

As I see it:

1. There's a pay dispute between employer and employee means that there is no level of pay that both can agree to.
2. In such a situation both employers and employees will use their powers of influence in order to try and influence the situation to their benefit.
3. Degrees are awarded to students, by Universities.

So as far as I can tell the exam situation is the result of interaction between three groups of people: students, lecturers, and universities. So where's the confusion? In the minds of the simple minded. Some people seem to think that the lecturers are the cause of the dispute.

Its a shame that the phase, "It takes two to tango" is such a cliche, because I'm going to use it anyway. It takes two to tango. Why are there not students sitting around writing on their blogs, instead of revising, moaning about how the university's lack of pay rises is causing their lecturers to go on strike?

I'm not expecting any finalists to be happy about the situation, but there is more to it than the, 'bloody lecturers, putting my degree at stake'. I am frankly shocked that there has been no one complaining about the university's stance on this matter. They are in a position to end the strike just as easily as the lecturers.

And finally, the "If they don't want shit pay, they should get another job" is frankly the world's most ridiculous argument. You don't get what you pay for in the job market: some jobs people are willing to do for less money, others require more. There is, however, a severe abuse of trust going on at the moment within the university system – an abuse that in the long run is simply going to drive many of the best academics out of academia. I cite Tony Hoare working for Microsoft.


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  1. They are in a position to end the strike just as easily as the lecturers.

    How, precisely? The 23% increase which the lecturers are demanding isn't peanuts, you know.

    24 May 2006, 17:17

  2. Let's get some things straight. They are asking for a rise of more than 20%. They are lecturers and work a hell of a lot less than say state sector teachers yet state teachers never receive more than a 3% rise. Lecturers do not work all day 9–5, they do not have to put up with lack of discipline in the classroom, they do not have to deal with children or parents for that matter and they should count themselves lucky they do not have jobs in the least related to the real world.
    12.6% was by any standards a bloody good offer – instead the socialist infiltrated AUT don't feel that qualifies the petty 'weeks work' of a full time lecture. There is so much compassion within the AUT that they exploit students as they prepare for their exams to assert their own agenda.

    24 May 2006, 17:30

  3. they should count themselves lucky they do not have jobs in the least related to the real world.

    If their jobs are not related to the real world, why do so many people get annoyed when they stop marking exam papers?

    But yeah, far better to whine about socialism and claim that academics are all lazy. You've got a nerve to accuse others of a lack of compassion.

    24 May 2006, 17:45

  4. How, precisely? The 23% increase which the lecturers are demanding isn't peanuts, you know.

    Replace 'lecturers' with 'AUT'. Apologies for the typo.

    24 May 2006, 18:06

  5. "How, precisely? The 23% increase which the lecturers are demanding isn't peanuts, you know."

    1. Its affordable, for Warwick University – look at their financial figures.
    2. Money was supposed to be used from Top–up fees in order to increase lecturers pay rises.
    3. Lecturers salaries have grown considerably slower than the average. The average over the last three years is 13% – the offer will therefore continue this trend, when the expectation was that it would reverse it.

    "They are lecturers and work a hell of a lot less than say state sector teachers"
    Lies, at least in Computer Science. I have Professors leaving at 11.30pm on a sunday – that is commitment. People who I know who are continuing with their academic study beyond their degree are the hardest working in the year. I cannot comment on arts/social sciences since undergraduate work load seems to bear no correlation.

    "they do not have to put up with lack of discipline in the classroom, they do not have to deal with children or parents for that matter"
    These practical issues are not the only ones that lecturers have to contend with. Furthermore this is a Reducio Ad Absurdum – very few other jobs have these particular stresses, but have many others. For example, I am sure that no one is in any doubt of the amount of stress that employees of Investment Banks have to put up with, and you would certainly not offer the argument that they didn't have to contend with children or parents.

    "12.6% was by any standards a bloody good offer" – see above.

    "There is so much compassion within the AUT that they exploit students as they prepare for their exams to assert their own agenda."
    Again you utterly fail to contend the key point of the question that was posed. Your only offered reason for attacking Lecturers appears to be a broad and unevidenced characterisation of their political views.

    My only question is will you attempt in your next post to make the full Gamut of logical errors by offering 'they are on strike =>they must be socialist" as the most circular argument of the 21st century.

    24 May 2006, 18:21

  6. 1. I have no idea about CS but the point is that lecturers at Warwick im sure aren't universally obliged to work 9–5 as is the norm in the example i used about state sector teachers. It was a general point which is true.
    2. I was suggesting a comparison with other 'teachers' or employees involved in education most of whom are state sector school teachers. Whilst you are right about few other jobs having these'stresses' lecturers mostly just present the work and teach without having to deal with th behavioral side of teaching students. Im not talking outside of teaching.
    3. 12.6% – sorry im with the University with this one.
    4. Is part of a general critique of a union driven by socialist ideology – so yes with respect i am criticising the AUT fot that very reason. No with respect 'on strike' does not necessarily mean socialist yet im sure you'd like to slot my argument into a neat little logical box.
    5. The AUT could have held their action earlier in the year – why not? I just don't know. I can only imagine that they thought it effective to exploit students undergoing examinations. You must understand if Trade Unions have to bring their problems on other people to get their way they will. It is a trend going back over the decades which demonstrates their lack of compassion.

    24 May 2006, 18:56

  7. Thanks for numbering, it does make responses easier:

    1. I am pretty sure that the offered contract for university staff does make certain hours specific, especially for pay grades 1–5. Nonetheless contractual obligation is not an issue, the issue is the amount of work that university lecturers have and do. I feel that the traditional stereotype of the 'lazy lecturer' really does not hold true when I look at those in my department.
    2. I am talking outside of teaching – since that is an important part of the lecturer's job. I am also aware of specific examples of behavioural problems that have been delt with, though from a point of view of these being personal matters I shall not discuss them further. Again considering my department a lot of the problems of teaching revolve around having a subject that is frequently very counter intuitive by its very nature. I don't feel this was ever a great difficulty during pre–university days, simply due tp the difficulty of the material.
    3. The choice of individual figures is entirely subjective. It is also entirely irrelevant to my point that there are two parties involved and blaming one entirely is not an appropriate analysis of the situation.
    4. Your critique seemed to offer little insight into their ideology, nor any evidence as to how this was an ideologically driven matter. And yes I would like to slot your argument into a nice, logically reasoned, well evidenced box. Unfortunately the almost complete absence of any objective criticality in your arguments seems to rule out the possibility of me so easily accepting it.
    5. Yet more ad hominem attacks on the nature of the trade unions – all entirely irrelevant to the two key points that the university are an equal party in the pay dispute and that lecturers finding other jobs would not solve anything.

    24 May 2006, 19:13

  8. Mathew Mannion

    "The University can afford it so they should pay no matter what" is a pretty piss–poor argument too, in fairness.

    24 May 2006, 19:17

  9. A sad mischaracterisation of what I stated. The original point was that the university could afford the increase in pay – not that they should necessarily pay it. Again this is corroborative of the main point that there are two parties in the dispute, and whilst everyone seems quite keen to jump on the bandwagon of blaming the AUT I am unwilling to ignore the importance of the universities in the pay dispute.

    24 May 2006, 19:29

  10. Points 1–3 taken. Point 4 – 'critique': this isn't a haut intellectual anaylsis just passing observations and opinions. They can't stand there and say yes we are left of left but i have it on good authority that that is the case. (Naturally i can't give you concrete evidence).
    Point 5 – Irrelevant or not the AUT refusal to accept a deal or to put forward a moderate alternative to the 23% joke that they are demanding is typically TU.

    If it is a bandwagon that everyone is jumping on then its the right one – the AUT should back down. The fact of 'everyone' jumping on the bandwagon (but you) should also tell you most students do not see the AUT's attitude as anything short of typical staunch trade unionism directed at causing maximum disruption to student lives.

    Nobody is contesting that there are not two parties in the dispute. Thats understood.
    The university does hold a responsibility: again an obvious point because they need to make concessions as they have in the 12.6% offer which i do not see as unreasonable, though you may dispute this.
    The AUT were offered 12.6%, a fair deal compared to average pay rises in any industry (since you used 'average' in comparison with lecturers pay). They said no, instead demanding an incredible 23%. Either im completely mistaken, and for what the hard work lecturers do they has been disgracefully disregarded and undervalued, or the AUT has an agenda to extend this fiasco out longer by putting forward an unagreeable figure to the university. When will they learn that it is in everybody's interest to lay down a reasonable demand instead of playing politics with students' futures? Secondly where is their compassion and empathy for the students in all of this? Nowhere because they just don't care as long as they get their way.

    Finally, do you think 23% is really reasonable?

    24 May 2006, 20:06

  11. 1. "If it is a bandwagon that everyone is jumping on then its the right one…" – Appeal to Popularity, followed by more ad hominem arguments.
    2. "Nobody is contesting that there are not two parties in the dispute." – the arguments offered are that an industrial dispute is damaging students exam performance. You are following on from that to blame one party in the dispute. With the issue at hand being a gap between pay offered and requested I don't feel that you can simply blame one party for said dispute.
    3. Your argument appears to rest on your belief that 23% is a 'ridiculous' pay rise. I believe it is perfectly reasonable. I would like to offer some points on this issue:

    Lecturer's pay has fallen with respect to similar Professions – the AUT claims by 40%. You seem to believe that the comparable professions are teaching. Accordingly you believe that university pay should suffer. That either teacher's pay could also rise more speedily given your beliefs does not seem to come into play. Neither does the fact that academics are employed as researchers. Compare with similar jobs in the private sector with regard to this and you will find that they are grossly underpaid and undervalued. Accordingly it is sensible to provide a pay rise above the average rate of pay increase in order to attempt to redress this situation. Even if you do not believe that 23% is reasonable, surely you can understand that another below average increase is yet another slap in the face to academics. I have no idea of your character and wouldn't like to make assertions based upon what you have said, but I would view 12.6% over three years as a joke – would you want to accept it?

    24 May 2006, 20:32

  12. 1. Its affordable, for Warwick University – look at their financial figures.

    This isn't a dispute between Warwick and the unions, it's a national dispute. Warwick could probably just about afford it, at a significant cost to student services. Very few other organizations could.

    2. Money was supposed to be used from Top–up fees in order to increase lecturers pay rises.

    Money from top–up fees (1/3, as agreed) is scheduled to spend on increased salary.

    3. Lecturers salaries have grown considerably slower than the average. The average over the last three years is 13% – the offer will therefore continue this trend, when the expectation was that it would reverse it.

    Average salaries determined how, exactly?

    I certainly don't believe that there are many "lazy lecturers", but there are certainly a few. Conditions of work, pensions etc are substantially better in the university sector than in the "average" company, however, and this is important. Just looking at the average salary is rather meaningless.

    The demand that the AUT are making is unrealistic. Payroll is one of the largest outgoings of any large organization, including universities, and to increase that by 23% over 3 years is just not possible without making cuts elsewhere.

    Which services would you like to be cut to pay for it?

    24 May 2006, 20:51

  13. What youve said is very dismissive (i wouldn't like to make assertions on your character either) but you have made your point. I would contest that figure of 40% as plucked. Lecturer's pay may have not increased with respect to similar professions and i certainly am not disputing that there must be a pay increase but 23% is a joke.
    And why now when most students have exams?

    24 May 2006, 20:53

  14. Christopher Rossdale

    The AUT has never really thought it'll get 23% – the real figure they want is probably about half way between the 12% offered and the 23% stated. The issue with the 12% is that it maintains the status quo – a pay rise just under or just above inflation, meaning no real–term increase. Whilst comparable jobs in industry (and it has long been the policy of the public sector to pay workers a rate that is comparable) have much higher pay, and the demands on university lecturers have increased, there is no excuse for not giving them a rise above inflation. Particularly when the universities originally said that they would, and then reneged on that agreement.

    24 May 2006, 20:55

  15. 1. "This isn't a dispute between Warwick and the unions, it's a national dispute. Warwick could probably just about afford it, at a significant cost to student services. Very few other organizations could." – why not negotiate locally and cut the crap then? It is a solution to the exam problem. I think given a large degree of apathy towards the strikes over in some departments, eg Computer Science, Engineering that they could get a local solution that keeps people happy without needing as large a pay increase as has been nationally demanded.

    2. "Money from top–up fees (1/3, as agreed) is scheduled to spend on increased salary." When I last checked this the university were spending that extra money on increased salary budget, not increased pay for existing lecturers. If this situation has changed then I would be interested to hear of it.

    3. On the demands issue I would like to point out that that would be compounded figure, so its not that extreme.

    4. "Which services would you like to be cut to pay for it?" – I would like the pay of the Vice Chancellor to be halved, that allows nearly 4 more lecturers at pay grade 7 to be hired. On a more pragmatic note Warwick needn't cut other services if it went for a local agreement, and the increases are not to be permanently at an excessive rate, this is just a three year deal and its conditions only need be appropriate at the time it is made.

    5. "I would contest that figure of 40% as plucked" – I sourced it at: link that was the claim being made by the AUT.

    6. "What youve said is very dismissive" – sorry debating via blogs always brings out the worst in me, especially when I have an exam tomorrow.

    24 May 2006, 21:08

  16. I know others have already made this point, but I feel prompted to reiterate it…

    The amount of work that undergraduates see lecturers doing is a tiny proportion of their whole workload. Yes, in terms of teaching time and maybe even teaching difficulty they don't have the same kind of pressures as teachers, but that is not the point. Lecturers have groups of researchers to oversee, budgets to handle, research of their own to carry out, meetings to attend, contacts and collaborators to negotiate with. This year I have seen things from the other side because I'm doing placement in the biology department as part of my BSc, and I know VERY few academics who work less than nine hours a day. My own professor is at work by 7.30 and normally doesn't leave until 5 or after. He has two postdocs and two (soon to be four) PhD students to guide and advise, as well as a research facility (where my role lies) to oversee. Do you really think it's possible to be lazy and maintain your post within a University? Each academic gets their progess regularly reviewed by the VC: they have to present evidence of sufficient publications and advances in their research and justify their presence within the university. Trashing the people who teach you is a cheap shot, and in most cases utterly unjustified.

    24 May 2006, 22:08

  17. why not negotiate locally and cut the crap then?

    Because the AUT won't accept local solutions.

    When I last checked this the university were spending that extra money on increased salary budget, not increased pay for existing lecturers. If this situation has changed then I would be interested to hear of it.

    It's a bit of both, as I understand it. Is it more sensible to have fewer academics, paid more and working harder?

    Sarah,

    Each academic gets their progess regularly reviewed by the VC: they have to present evidence of sufficient publications and advances in their research and justify their presence within the university.

    That's not my understanding of the situation. You won't progress if you aren't bringing in research funding, but it's damnably hard to get rid of people, once their probation has ended.

    Although for the most part, academics are hard–working, dedicated and driven people, there are always a few who aren't. That's life.

    24 May 2006, 22:51

  18. Si Hammond

    The other aspect of this argument is that ultimately it IS in the best interests of the University to offer a relatively high salary to academics (which I think it largely does and will continue to do so) since it will have the effect of retaining and recruiting the very best individuals in their field. If low pay is offered (and I don't want to imply that it either is or will be), then talented academics may be turned away from a fufilling career in University based research for a role in the private sector. As a student who has benefitted from excellent teaching I for one would rather that Warwick sought to maintain the very best standards it has built up over the years. I agree that only part of this comes from a good pay award, other aspects include lifestyle choices and working conditions but it is and will be become an increasingly important aspect of career decisions if the gap between public (university) and commercial employment is not kept managable. In truth, it is a fine line to manage, the AUT has a particular view point which I do not share – I do however believe that the problem stems from uninvestment in Universities by government, something which we are only now beginning to address. Pay for lecturers is only a very small issue in this big landscape but nevertheless it IS important that we retain and recruit the very best talent for Warwick and a key motivation for this is the pay levels offered.

    24 May 2006, 22:51

  19. "Because the AUT won't accept local solutions."
    Both St. Andrews and Edinburgh have made local arrangements. Not only that but the AUT recommended that locally members accepted the St. Andrews offer.

    "It's a bit of both, as I understand it. Is it more sensible to have fewer academics, paid more and working harder?"
    So they aren't spending the 1/3 that they promised on pay rises.

    24 May 2006, 23:00

  20. Both St. Andrews and Edinburgh have made local arrangements. Not only that but the AUT recommended that locally members accepted the St. Andrews offer.

    No, those universities made local offers, and the national AUT forced the local members to reject them.

    link link link

    Did they promise pay rises, or did they promise to spend it on salary? I don't know. Do you?

    24 May 2006, 23:38

  21. Cheers for links Max – the news I was working on, on that front was clearly out of date. Though it does appear that Aberdeen are pressing ahead with their plans to minimise impact according to the bbc.

    24 May 2006, 23:48

  22. Doesn't it make more sense for these things to be negotiated locally? That way lecturers would expect to receive a pay increase which is somewhat proportional to the success of their employer. As it is, the 12.6% increase is probably what the 'average' uni can afford to pay lecturers, when we know that Warwick is probably in a position to pay more.

    25 May 2006, 13:41

  23. I think Warwick maybe needs to get its financial priorities right. For example, it spent millions of pounds on a shiny new building for the V.C and his friends (university house) whilst the humanities building is literally falling down. They now wish to move humanities to the Westwood campus, miles away from the library, when it is the department that needs the library most. I know that the university is probably in one of those situations where it can only spend money on certain things, like the case in schools, but surely the university could at least try and divert money from the shiny buildings pot to the bits that matter, like wages for staff.

    25 May 2006, 14:12

  24. John

    Richard, I take it you are not a finalist? Oh and out interest how many exams have you sat that have been affected by the stirke?

    25 May 2006, 14:28

  25. Ailsa – with regards to buildings, I along with many others would argue that the money spent on posh buildings (especially those used for by conferencing) more than pays for itself in terms of the extra revenue it generates. Furthermore, in contrast to the supposed waste that the purchase of University House was portrayed as, the Learning Grid and relocation of the careers service seems to have proved very popular from what I've seen. In my opinion (and those of many others), the grid is a pleasant place to work as well as being an impressive resource to prospective students, and certainly massively better than the library.

    25 May 2006, 15:00

  26. @Christopher Doidge – it certainly seems to make sense for russell group universities, I suspect employees elsewhere would be a lot worse off, however, you would expect that to happen wouldn't you?

    @Ailsa Johnstone – link thats what a blue skies approach seems to have come up with. No doubt the university could afford it, but I don't know how firmly they are commiting to these plans. Still a lot more buildings is what they envisage.

    @John Doe – I am a finalist, I have not had any exams affected. Neither of these facts have any influence on the arguments themselves. The point that was originally made was that the 'Its all the lecturers fault' irrational complaints from people are not at all representative of the situation.

    @Christopher Sigournay – very agreeable points, but when are they going to build a monorail from Hurst all the way over there?

    25 May 2006, 18:13

  27. Lol a monorail from Hurst? It's not that far – I can walk it from my mate's flat in Hurst in under 10 minutes. Campus isn't all that big!

    25 May 2006, 18:50

  28. Shaun Breslin

    i dont want to intrude on this debate for long, and this doesn't specifically deal with some of the issues raised above but …
    (a) 23 per cent over three years – and depending on when it is paid, can ve very different (ie: at the start, or end, of the year). statistics are NEVER neutral
    (b) it is 20:12 and i am about to start revising a paper for a conference having spent 10 hours at work. teaching hours usually represent a very small proportion of what we do, and the non–teaching work we do is a huge reason why warwick is widely considered to be a good university. your attempt to equate teaching hours with work "taught" is erroneous. the VCs would agree with me here.
    (c) if you are a good teacher, you are also on top of (if not the generator of) the latest and best work in your discipline. the idea that you can do teaching without devoting many hours to reseach is, at best, misguided.
    (d) universities would be bankrupt if they paid for an hourly week plus overtime on top. I'm pretty sure the VC would agree with me here as well.

    So, I make no comment about the overall tone of your debate here and how you as students perceive the dispute – but please at least be clear about the terms of your debate and the nature of the job.

    25 May 2006, 20:29

  29. (c) if you are a good teacher, you are also on top of (if not the generator of) the latest and best work in your discipline. the idea that you can do teaching without devoting many hours to reseach is, at best, misguided.

    I'm not sure that I entirely agree with this statement. This is partly why some departments are moving to have "Teaching Fellows"; the recognition that teaching and research are separate skills. I know (and have been taught by) people whose research is absolutely stunning, but couldn't lecture to save their lives.

    Basically, good teaching (to finalists, anyway) does depend on a deep familiarity with current research (so probably doing it oneself). However, being a good researcher does not make one a good teacher.

    25 May 2006, 21:00

  30. I agree that research and teaching are seperate skills, however, the implication in Shaun Breslin's statement seemed to be that you needed to be up to date with the research in the area in order to teach, not that it necessarily made you a good teacher. I think this is important to recognise.

    25 May 2006, 21:54

  31. John

    @John Doe – I am a finalist, I have not had any exams affected. Neither of these facts have any influence on the arguments themselves.

    Well I think they do. We were told an exam we sat on Wedsneday would not be set by our course lecturers but by someone else only 2 days before. In revision sessions for this exam the lecturers didn't even bother to forewarn us that this could be the case even though they knew it could well be and instead decided to give us revision tips that made many of us restrict our revision to only 4 or 5 topics. The lecturers could quite easily have forewarned us that an exam may not be submitted by them but oh no. It seems to be that at least some of the striking lecturers do not have the students interests at heart at all.

    25 May 2006, 23:08

  32. The lecturers could quite easily have forewarned us that an exam may not be submitted by them but oh no

    That's because all the exams were set by them, as they were all finalized in February.

    25 May 2006, 23:23

  33. "Well I think they do." – the entirely irrelevant post just made demonstrates entirely that you are missing the point. This is not about your unfortunate story, nor is it about how many students are going to have their degree affected by this. The initial blog post (if you read it) was taking issue with the illogically and irrationally argued ranting about how everything is the fault of the lecturers. The number of posts describing it as the fault of the Unions, and then purely blaming the AUT, without even mentioning the UCEA is incredbile.

    25 May 2006, 23:33

  34. In the minds of the simple minded

    Bit below the belt, I'd say… but then I never judge a person's character without ever meeting them :–)

    25 May 2006, 23:37

  35. Also, I should add:

    Some people seem to think that the lecturers are the cause of the dispute.

    I didn't actually say that. The entry you linked to, of mine, specifically attacked a letter to us by the IB227 lecturer / University AUT rep whose advice to refuse to take an exam was, I thought, absolutely outrageous and about which I will be making a formal complaint. Even though I made it quite obvious that I have absolutely no time for the lecturers who are taking part, I also said:

    The quickest way for this whole mess to be resolved is for the AUT to drop their outrageous demands and UCEA to stop fannying about and actually go and meet up with the unions.

    and

    The moan I have is not just about the action, it's about the apparent unwillingness of the AUT and UCEA to sort it out in the near future.

    i.e. the fault lies primarily with the AUT negotiators. They could end it by putting the 12.6% offer to ballot, but they refuse to. I don't think the lecturers taking part are the primary cause of the dispute, but their actions are certainly helping to prolong it rather than resolve it. Even if they are members of the AUT, they don't have to go on strike if they don't wish to. If they really cared – and the feeling is that a 12.6% offer might be accepted – perhaps they might consider giving their own negotiators a nudge to put it to ballot and get the whole thing over and done with ASAP. Wishful thinking, I know…

    25 May 2006, 23:51

  36. If lecturers' pay has been declining in real terms for 20 years, as I believe is the AUT's claim, why are they striking about it now rather than 10 or 15 years ago?

    Just on a point of information:

    "Ailsa – with regards to buildings, I along with many others would argue that the money spent on posh buildings (especially those used for by conferencing) more than pays for itself in terms of the extra revenue it generates."

    University House isn't used for conferences.

    26 May 2006, 01:23

  37. @Benjamin Keates – the link to your blog entry was not in direct response to your post, but all the comments, many of which did take the angle previously characterised. Your post seemed to be complaining about one module, which is obviously a personal matter, within the context of the strike. This is why the plural 'people' was used when referring to your blog, rather than person.

    @Michael Jones – I don't understand this line of argument – are you offering their late striking as evidence that their claims are bogus? Its pretty much up to them when to strike, or call "action short of a strike" – its also proferred as a reason to strike that there will be a lot money coming into the higher education sector over the next few years and some of this was promised to lecturers. The UCEA claim that their current pay offer already pays them this incease, the AUT claim that it doesn't.

    26 May 2006, 08:44

  38. I didn't say University House was used for conferences, merely that many of our buildings which are pretty well kitted out and well maintained, along with our well–maintained campus, are used for conferences and help to attract more conference customers by improving the appeal of the campus. University House in particular is a great resource for students, and also serves the needs of university administration.

    26 May 2006, 09:10

  39. @ Christopher: one of the main buildings used for conferences is humanities, which we've been reliably informed is falling down, although in most other cases it is the newer, better maintained buildings (Arts Centre, Rootes…) which are used.

    @Richard: sorry if that was unclear, it wasn't really supposed to be a line of argument at all, just raising the question. It wasn't intended as evidence of anything.

    26 May 2006, 11:12

  40. Thank god my parents moved to New York to teach. The (relatively speaking) abysmally low pay for academics in Europe is lamentable and incredibly backwards. If Britain wants to keep up, something has to change. I don't care to argue about corporate sponsorship, top–up fees and the like; it's time to revise— but I'll just note that I seriously support the lecturers on this one. And thanks, Richard, for a good blog.

    26 May 2006, 14:21

  41. 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

  42. I'll be there, though I would put money on it that you mean the 5th June.

    26 May 2006, 15:07

  43. AJ Brown

    Oops!

    Indeed I did mean 5th June!

    26 May 2006, 15:43

  44. "teaching hours usually represent a very small proportion of what we do"

    If teaching is only a very small part of your job, and likewise setting and marking exams must also be a very small part. So why not take the action of stopping every thing other than these three things. Stop doing all that other work you're supposedly doing that takes up so much time, rather than stopping doing that which hurts the students the most.

    26 May 2006, 20:06

  45. Christopher Rossdale

    Because that's what'll hurt the university the most. Stopping research or reading would cripple your career, and take years to have any noticeable impact on the universtity.

    27 May 2006, 11:02

  46. The university is smart enough to see the long term problems they'll have if lecturers stop researching. But yes, it would cripple thier career, and that's why they're not doing it. It's also why the university arn't taking them seriously as the lecturers might want more money but arn't willing to put thier career's on the line for it, they're only willing to take actions which won't have a negative impact on themselves.

    27 May 2006, 18:44

  47. Yep, the 20% of their wages that they're currently being docked can't be seen as negative in the slightest. Or any damage this might do to the reputation of the AUT, their potential for future negotiation with employers, etc. It's entirely risk free for them.

    27 May 2006, 19:49

  48. What's the problem with having their wages docked? They aren't doing all of the work they're contracted to, so they can't expect all of the pay. They're more fortunate than some strikers, who are being docked 100% (link) – while I consider that overly harsh, since as far as I know the staff there are also still fulfilling their non–teaching commitments, I can't see that there's much to object to in the 20% dock; it's difficult to quantify exactly what proportion of an academic's time is taken up by teaching, but 20% seems a reasonable estimate. Lecturers claim that they have a right to take industrial action, but their employers have an equal right to decline to pay them for work they're not doing.

    As for the reputation of the AUT, I think the attitude they've shown towards students over the last week or two, with their ridiculous suggestions of not turning up to exams etc., has done a fairly effective job of destroying it anyway.

    28 May 2006, 15:05

  49. SD

    I can't see that there's much to object to in the 20% dock; it's difficult to quantify exactly what proportion of an academic's time is taken up by teaching, but 20% seems a reasonable estimate.

    Aarrgh! No one is boycotting teaching! All teaching is proceeding as normal. It is only admin jobs that are being affected by the action. This is deliberate: research and teaching have intrinsic value, admin work does not.

    It is incredibly depressing that some students here think that exam marking is a part of the teaching process.

    Incidentally, the legality of the 20% dock is at best questionable. Whereas it is legal for employers to refuse partial performance of employees who are taking action short of a strike (by docking 100% of their pay), it is illegal for employers to withold a percentage of pay unless they can demonstrate that it is a "reasonable" reflection of the amount of work that is not being done. Since it is obvious that the affected percentage of each employee's workload affected varies (i.e. lecturers have a different percentage to teaching fellows, to research fellows, to IT staff etc), it is almost certain that the university's actions are illegal in at least some cases. Moreover, it is stupid: when the dispute has been settled none of the exams will get marked until the pay is refunded.

    The university is only doing it because they are petrified of students taking them to court for breach of contract, and need to be able to demonstrate that they are doing all they can to stop the action.

    29 May 2006, 23:32

  50. SD:

    "It is incredibly depressing that some students here think that exam marking is a part of the teaching process."

    No, it's part of the assessment process. In addition to teaching, part of a lecturer's job is to judge a student's ability and knowledge in the taught subject by assessment. This is by assessed coursework and examinations, which require marking by lecturers so that the student's ability can be judged. If this does not take place, then the student has no proof of his/her ability to an external party (such as an employer). While intellectual idealism may have a great problem with this, the fact remains that the majority of people are here because they need to be for professional employment. That's not to say that nobody likes their subject – most people are here as well because they want to further their knowledge in the subject they are passionate about. But the student's need for a degree is an essential requirement of their professional career, and without it they're pretty screwed over. So I would argue that perhaps the assessment process is the end of the teaching process, whereby ability and knwoledge are graded compared to others. We can argue the finer points of what constitutes teaching and what constitutes course admin until the cows come home, but whatever view you take you can't deny that by refusing to do course admin, specifically related to student assessment, lecturers are not fulfilling their contracts (they're contracted to teach, assess and research, not just do the bits they want!). Also, teaching may have more intrinsic value but the administration that leads to the student's degree has the most fiscal and professional value to the student.

    30 May 2006, 05:50

  51. If you go on full strike, you don't get paid anything.

    If you refuse do somewhere around a fifth of your job, you don't deserve to get paid around a fifth of your wages.

    Regardless of 'strike' or 'no strike', lecturers aren't doing the job they're contracted to do, and are pretty arrogant if they think they should continue to be paid in full.

    30 May 2006, 08:56

  52. SD

    This is a fake debate. No one I know has had their pay docked and, as I say, if anybody's pay is docked it will have to be refunded when the dispute is settled, or no one will ever graduate. All the threat of pay–docking has done is escalate tension, and provoke a legal challenge.

    30 May 2006, 09:14

  53. "Aarrgh! No one is boycotting teaching!"

    Wrong. An important part of the teaching process is feedback on submitted work. If staff aren't marking the work, they can't give any feedback, so they're evidently not teaching in that respect, even if they're still giving lectures.

    If the dispute is not settled until someone other than the lecturer for a particular module has set and marked the exam, then that person will get paid for it and the lecturer won't, which, given who did the work, seems fairly logical.

    30 May 2006, 10:51

  54. This is a fake debate. No one I know has had their pay docked and, as I say, if anybody's pay is docked it will have to be refunded when the dispute is settled, or no one will ever graduate. All the threat of pay–docking has done is escalate tension, and provoke a legal challenge.

    Has anyone you know informed the unviersity that they intend to take part in this action? If they haven't informed the university, then they're breaching their contract and there's an obvious legal recourse for the university.

    You seem to be suggesting that you should have the right to go on strike (even if it is a partial strike) and still be paid for the work that you're not doing.This is self–evidently a legally hopeless position, and smacks of wanting everything – do less work and still receive full pay. I fully support your right to take industrial action, but I feel that this particular action is disingenuous.

    Marking exams is part of both formative and summative assessment, and so is a fundamental part of the teaching process. There's no real discussion about this.

    30 May 2006, 11:28

  55. sd

    Has anyone you know informed the unviersity that they intend to take part in this action? If they haven't informed the university, then they're breaching their contract and there's an obvious legal recourse for the university.

    To quote our rep, "members are under no obligation to inform management of their intentions". I should imagine he's up to speed on the relevant employment law.

    Marking exams is part of both formative and summative assessment, and so is a fundamental part of the teaching process. There's no real discussion about this.

    This is an odd thing to say. End of module examinations are obviously not a form of formative assessment, at least not in the sense that the term has been used in any educational context that I've ever come across.

    30 May 2006, 13:49

  56. To quote our rep, "members are under no obligation to inform management of their intentions". I should imagine he's up to speed on the relevant employment law.

    Partially, perhaps. The thing is that if you're undertaking industrial action, you are protected to some extent from action due to your breach of contract. If you don't inform your employer that it's industrial action, you're not, and you're just not doing the work you're contracted to.

    The full AUT advice is:

    1. Members have no obligation to give advance notice of participation and should not do so.
    2. Once they have taken action, again they have no obligation to volunteer any information about their participation.
    3. However, if asked, my advice is that they should respond by saying: "I am supporting the industrial action as notified to the university by my trade union". They do not have to give any detail and I would advise against doing so.
    4. If pressed by aggressive managers who are not satisfied by the response suggested above, they should refer them to their union rep. The rep should repeat this advice and point out that any pressure on individual members will be treated as victimisation and will be taken up with HR.

    And besides, Not informing them is just plain nasty. It is clearly a case of "I won't threaten my salary, instead I'll cause the maximum possible disruption". Constructive approach, that.

    This is an odd thing to say. End of module examinations are obviously not a form of formative assessment, at least not in the sense that the term has been used in any educational context that I've ever come across.

    I beg to differ. For finalists the situation is somewhat diferent, but for pre–finalists they are obviously a tool in shaping the future education of those students, which modules they take in future, whether they change degree stream, etc.

    30 May 2006, 14:07

  57. How do you feel about the lecturers strike?

    Are you for or against?

    If you fancy having your say, give us a quick ring on 024 765 73077 (just 73077 from a campus phone).

    RaW News.

    01 Jun 2006, 11:40

  58. I'm a postgrad, so I have a more nuetral perspective perhaps than many. A couple of points I want to make:

    As other people have said, academics have to work their arse off. They cannot obtain or keep jobs otherwise. The primary roles of academia are teaching and research. University funding is currently mainly allocated on research performance – the difference between a 5* and a 4 can (and does) result in departments closing. This means that universities have to employ the very best world–leading researchers in their fields (students often don't realise this) and then pays them like shit. What other profession is treated in this way?

    Further down the ladder, the conditions are atrocious – I've read highly misleading figures about junior academics pay (ie. junior lecturers are well paid they receive £25,000 or whatever). It should be noted that junior lecturer is a relatively senior position often obtained by people in their mid–30's. The reality is that want–to–be researchers often face great financial difficulties to complete their PhD's, spend a couple of years on a Post–Doc, receiving maybe as little as £12,000, and then spend years working (or not) on temporary contracts, or funding their research by teaching paid hourly, before finally landing a full time position. This state of affairs is really not OK, and while I am slightly unsure of current tactics, something has to be done. It saddens me with how little respect some people view the people that educate them.

    Another point – better pay for lecturers will be good for everyone because it will slow the 'brain drain' to better pay and conditions in other countries (primarily US) {and increase the 'brain gain' towards us from other countries with worse pay and conditions!)

    Another point – lthe AUT put in its pay claim in OCTOBER to avoid the problems we're having now. The university employers only came to the negotiating table some weeks ago. They, the greedy bureaucrats, precipitated this crisis.

    Final and main point – the lecturers do the research, bring in the money, design the courses, teach the students, make the reputation of the university. The (well–paid) senior bureaucrats and VC's in university administration treat them like an annoyance not worthy of fair pay and conditions. The bureaucrats think the university system is about them. It's not. How did they end up controlling the money? They are just support staff who've got to big for their boots.

    01 Jun 2006, 14:31

  59. spend a couple of years on a Post–Doc, receiving maybe as little as £12,000,

    I believe that at Warwick, the researcher payscale starts around £20k, due to increase to £23k under the local offer.

    Another point – lthe AUT put in its pay claim in OCTOBER to avoid the problems we're having now. The university employers only came to the negotiating table some weeks ago. They, the greedy bureaucrats, precipitated this crisis.

    That's really not true

    01 Jun 2006, 16:06

  60. Final and main point – the lecturers do the research, bring in the money, design the courses, teach the students, make the reputation of the university. The (well–paid) senior bureaucrats and VC's in university administration treat them like an annoyance not worthy of fair pay and conditions. The bureaucrats think the university system is about them. It's not. How did they end up controlling the money? They are just support staff who've got to big for their boots.

    It's interesting that you feel this way, because the feeling that I've had is that for the most part, administration and academia at Warwick get along very well, each recognizes the role that the other plays.

    Without univeristy administration, academia would grind to a halt, as academics spent their time organizing buildings, services, library facilities, insurance, admissions, technology, finance, legal support, contracting, representation at regional and national fora etc etc. It's all about doing things effectively. It's nice to believe that academia can exist in its own little ivory tower, but that simply is not the case any more.

    Warwick's administration is actually very well regarded throughout the university sector for being made up of very good people, operating effectively. A very high percentage of our admin staff have research degrees of their own, so to suggest that they don't understand and respect the role of academics is unfounded.

    Incidentally, I've made the same comments on Daniel's blog, where he posted this comment as an entry. Choose your venue for a response :–)

    01 Jun 2006, 16:22

  61. Daniel Thompson wasn't saying that administration is unnecessary or that most staff don't do a good job. What he was saying was that the research is more important than the institution.

    02 Jun 2006, 12:11

  62. Sophie

    I wanted to post in support of the AUT action both locally and nationally. As previously mentioned the pay claim was submitted in October, we are now 8 months later with no resolution. The employer could have tried to resolve this issue earlier, they could have come to the table, and they could have been transparent about what the 1/3 of new funding for pay meant to current staff. Academics are not a well paid group, particularly when compared with their professional colleagues. I am a PhD students, I left a job paying 25K and could now return to private sector work with an MA on substantially more, however even once I complete my PhD if I decide to work in academia (which given the pay I very well may not decided to do) I will be looking a substantial drop in pay. Even with much higher qualifications. Its clearly absurd when the salaries are so much higher elsewhere.

    I was a finalist during a previous dispute over pay, it was horrible, a difficult situation for students and lecturers alike, but the 'blame' for the situation lies primarily with the failure of the national employers to live up to its commitment on pay. If VC pay should be kept in line with the private sector, then why not other university staff? We are talking about a 3 year period over which pay would increase, its not a request for an immediate 23% increase, the employers even with this revised offer are not offering a substantial increase on inflation. I can see why the union is not willing to ballot its members.

    I can understand the difficulties faced by students, its very upsetting not to get your final degree classification before graduation, however this is a national issue, national employers understand that there is ongoing action, its unlikely to adversely affect UK jobs, though I accept for a small minority of students it may affect job offers from overseas. Students will eventually receive their marked work and their classification.

    I believe that as a last resort all workers, including university staff, should be able to take strike action. I think that the AUT has taken this action short of a strike after months of trying to negotiate, they have made an effort not to affect teaching and learning by stopping teaching activities which would undoubtedly be worse for students. I have sympathy for the students who are affected by the action but all strike action affects customers and we as students are the universities customers. I think that we should be putting pressure the university and the national employers to resolve this dispute as quickly as possible.

    02 Jun 2006, 20:08

  63. Sophie,

    See the timeline I linked to above regarding the 8 months thing.

    The thing that I find reprehensible is that the AUT (or whatever they're called now) don't have the guts to go on an all–out strike, so instead of standing up for what they believe in they're damaging the students instead.

    I agree that academic pay is low. But the lifestyle is good, and the demands of the unions are totally unreasonable.

    02 Jun 2006, 21:23

  64. Sophie, 23% is a big increase whether brought in immediately or over two or three years. The universities' current offer is, as far as most of us can see, a reasonable one, and the AUT is refusing to put it to ballot. If the members vote on it and reject it, then obviously the action will continue, but by not giving them the opportunity the AUT is giving the impression of deliberately dragging out the dispute in order to cause the maximum possible disruption, all in the hope of obtaining another one or two percent.

    03 Jun 2006, 01:29


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