Association of University Teachers

The Independent Review of Higher Education Terms and Conditions (Bett) - AUT commentary



1 Introduction
2 Information
3 The future of Pay and Conditions Determination: Mechanisms
4 Pay levels
5 Other conditions of employment
6 Staff development
7 Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland
8 Clinical academics

1 Introduction


The Committee of Inquiry was established by the employers in response to Recommendation 50 of the Dearing Inquiry and adopted Lord Dearing's terms of reference.(note i) The Committee comprised five union, five employer and five independent representatives plus Sir Michael Bett (Chair). The secretariat was led by Peter Thorpe (DfEE) and the staffing provided by the Office of Manpower Economics (OME), the body which does all the technical work for the independent pay review bodies.


The Bett Report contains a summary of all proposals. However, this commentary sets out the links between proposals scattered throughout the Report so that the strategic and practical issues can be assessed properly. The commentary is largely factual although it assesses the positive opportunities and negative risks in the main recommendations. Thus, the Commentary is descriptive rather than policy making.


The Report is explicit on the status of its processes and the role of committee members. The process was not collective bargaining and it does not commit the organisation from which committee members were drawn. Members tried to convince one another of proposals, tried to find solutions where there was no consensus, and are also explicitly able to argue for what they believe is right in the post-Bett period where they cannot agree with the recommendations.


There will be a post-Bett period. If rejected, the Report will not disappear. It is bound, in different areas, to be promoted by various employers and unions as a bargaining agenda. For this reason it is crucial to take two steps:

  • The Association's negotiators need policy guidance for the tasks ahead

  • Where possible the Association should work together with broadly like-minded organisations to improve the prospects of success, and in this context, this commentary notes with pleasure the cooperation during the work of the committee with MSF and NATFHE, and the improving prospects of cooperation with EIS. (note ii)


Readers of the Report will doubtless find much they dislike - that is the recent history of all reports into higher education. Yet it will be important to identify any opportunities for advance, however difficult. Our call for independent pay review, our criticism of the workload crisis, our analysis of the supine attitude of the UCEA (note iii) and some vice-chancellors in the face of successive governments, have drawn us repeatedly to the conclusion that the status quo is a lousy option. Others have, for their own reasons, reached the same conclusion. AUT and its allies must find a new, joint way forward.

2 Information


The Committee collected huge volumes of data on staff numbers, pay and related employment matters. It established sound data on gender, mode of employment (full or part-time) and terms (permanent, fixed-term or casual). This data was long overdue and forms a good basis for future data collection.


Studies to gather information on recruitment and retention were concluded, as were studies on comparative pay levels. The results are considered elsewhere in this Commentary.


What is vital is that knowledge of the sector should never again be as poor. The proposal in the Report to appoint the OME as a permanent secretariat to the higher education (HE) sector negotiators is central, and to be welcomed.


Nor should it be acceptable that individual universities and colleges fail to collect data adequately in future, including ethnic monitoring. AUT should insist that all data needed by OME, plus additional data which we might reasonably require, should be made available on a timely and routine basis to local associations (LAs). LAs should in turn submit the data to the research department at head office.

3 The future of Pay and Conditions Determination: Mechanisms


At paragraphs 76 to 82, the Report considers and rejects the formation of a standing pay review committee. AUT rejected this conclusion.

The significant majority for rejection had, individually, very different reasons. Unison believed it would underpin what it saw as an elitist distinction between academic and related staff and others. NATFHE thought it would:

  • not be accepted by government because it would award too much money to staff, and

  • get in the way of free collective bargaining especially on conditions of employment.

The employers' representatives said it would impede management discretion, which they wished to extend. It would reduce their role as employers. The vice-chancellors from the pre-1992 universities noted they supported the concept if there were a government commitment to fund outcomes. Independent members varied in opinion but, in general, believed it would be hard to operate in the face of such divisions. The chair, Sir Michael Bett, made the more substantial argument based on his long-term support for and involvement in review bodies - the arrangements in HE are so chaotic that (unlike nurses, midwives, doctors, etc.) they would need to be substantially clarified if a review body were to do a sound job. This might, however, become possible. MSF have been broadly supportive. TGWU has expressed no view.


Employers said they support a single national system. The extent of the freedoms within it, which they seek, suggests that it would rapidly decay into local pay determination. The general secretary concluded in months of discussion, and hearing evidence from personnel directors, that this is their aim. The extent of the discretion's they seek are set out in the Report and in this commentary at paragraph 3.8.2.


It was agreed that the current 10 bargaining groups, reflecting splits on the binary basis, between parts of the UK, and between all groups of staff cannot be sustained, However, the status quo will not change unless the alternatives are acceptable and better than the present, flawed system. There is no point in introducing something worse.


The Report introduces the concept of a national council with sub-councils. Its structure is shown diagrammatically

Diagram of new negotiating councils


Plainly it is vital to understand what the Report is recommending for membership of the various bodies. To start with the Chair and Secretariat, this is not independent pay review but closely mirrors the infrastructure of such reviews. It would be less compelling to government and, therefore, less adequate. It is an advance on where we are. While the committee secretariat will be OME, it would be expected that the staff side secretariat would come from the majority union. Places on (or votes in) the staff side will have to be in proportion to membership numbers.


The next crucial definition is of the membership covered by the sub-councils. The Bett Committee, with the dissenting voice of AUT, was unwilling to construct the sub-committees in terms of current union memberships which it regarded as historical accident. Also, the employers, Unison and TGWU were vehemently against having sub-councils. They fought for all functions to be at a single table. When they failed at the very last in that objective, difficult discussions ensued on the sub-councils. No final agreement was ever possible but the Report does include council guidance to the 'Academic sub-council' membership, the title alone gives too little guidance.


Final disposition is a matter for negotiation. Guidance to the meaning of 'Academic sub-council' is:

  • it would include those 'staff normally recruited in national (or even international labour markets';

  • eligibility for membership of ILT 'may offer an appropriate distinguishing characteristic';

  • as a start it would include 'teachers, researchers and others whose primary function is to contribute directly to student learning'.

AUT has argued that these definitions plainly cover academic-related staff. In one respect, this argument has not yet been accepted. Administrators are said to fall into the area of major legal challenge on pay differences between scales. Aside from AUT, there was no support (except perhaps for registrars) for administrators to be on the academic table.




Job evaluation


The issues described lead to significant problems with job evaluation. The AUT is opposed to job evaluation as a subjective and inadequate means of measuring job size. An annex to this commentary (Annex A) deals with its application by Hay Management Consultants. However, it should be noted that the method is now uniformly employed by tribunals and courts to assist them in arriving at decisions on equal pay/equal value. This will remain whatever AUT's view of these schemes.


Institutions have informed the Bett Committee that they want to choose a job evaluation scheme individually. They also wanted to design their own individual scales on the basis of these schemes. The report recognises that independent institutions may be free to make such choices but the only consequence would be a complete disintegration of national arrangements. The AUT has said it believes this to be the employers' aim. If all employers agree to a single scheme, even allowing for the problems of such schemes, a degree of national coherence would remain.


There are two areas of job comparisons which employers are likely to explore to provide themselves with defences against the predicted tribunal and court cases. First, they will employ job evaluation in the overlap between Academic-Related 1 and 2 and the senior clerical and administrative scales. While it may be possible to refuse to co-operate, the probability is that a tribunal or court will require that it be presented as evidence as soon as a case is brought. Second, in order to 'benchmark' the four per cent of administrative staff on Academic- Related 3 to 6 to the academic scales - an exercise will be needed to construct the benchmarks. In this latter case, while it could also be required by a judicial route, it has the advantage of tying these staff completely to academic pay.

4 Pay levels


The study of pay relativities shows, at least for academic staff including researchers, the broad scale of decline demonstrated by AUT and other unions over nearly two decades. The decline shown is by 30 per cent. The pay study by Hay Management Consultants, which has been criticised by academic and related unions, is covered by Annex A, to this commentary. This is an extensive Annex setting out the problems in detail given the importance likely to attach to the Hay findings. Basically, it considers what individuals surveyed are actually doing at the time of survey. This may produce an evaluation of jobs which change little over time. However, an overwhelming proportion of academic and related jobs change frequently and those filling the jobs are expected to have a range of capacities upon which they and their employer can call. Those capacities must be sufficiently up-to-date to be called upon at any time. Yet those capacities receive almost no attention in the job evaluation methodology employed by Hay.


The outcome of those studies may lead employers to prefer Hay as a basis for pay offers and government to prefer it as a basis for funding, not least because it is cheaper. This will not be acceptable. However, on its own, this disguises the possible impact of other changes recommended for some groups which may become more obvious in negotiation.


The other key suggestion is the change in pay scales. Some of the new base points in suggested scales would raise salaries very considerably. Assimilation of staff to the scales, taking account of the value of time spent in the higher education service and academic and related responsibilities, could also raise salaries considerably. For this to happen (leaving aside whether funding will be available), there would have to be a major negotiation on this issue. Any success in this assimilation would also end the binary pay system.


The impact on funding of any negotiation does not appear in Bett as such. Even on a minimalist basis the cost would be between nine and ten per cent on the overall bill. Consequently Bett recommends the process be completed by 2002. His figures are at 1999 levels. They would have to be revised by the RPI for each year until 1999. On a more satisfactory assimilation scheme, the figure on the overall HEI bill could be more than doubled. The 18+ per cent would then be deployed in the 58 per cent of the overall bill currently used for salaries, i.e. it would raise the 'salary bill' by 31 per cent


There are, from AUT's point of view, several key goals to optimise this figure. First, the maximum proportion of academic related would need to be defined in the 'academic' bargaining unit. Second, any not included would have to be 'benchmarked' i.e. directly read off to the academic table. Approximately four per cent of staff who are senior administrators (finance, estates, personnel, student union, student union managers, etc) would, on the Bett proposal, be directly pegged to academic salaries as though they were on academic scales.


The Report proposes a difficult arrangement whereby scales would, for their initial four points, be related to length of service, followed by additional points reflecting 'relevant qualifications' including membership of ILT (which might attract an additional 1000 per annum), additional responsibilities, and merit and achievement. This would be a considerable extension of the discretionary scale points system. The report envisages a complete distinction between staff development appraisal and any assessment of merit, etc. This will, in any case, be necessary to meet the terms of Investors in People (IiP), described in the Staff Development section of this Commentary.


The Report concludes that there should be a national grading framework for academics. Depending on the resolution of the issues under paragraph 3.7, this should apply to almost all academic related staff, including those 'read off' to academic scales (paragraph 4.5). Equally it is argued by the Report that guidance is needed at national level for promotion criteria for academics.


There will be different assessments of the extent to which a fair and transparent scheme might work, or the extent to which it could mirror the current discretionary scale point system. The Bett Committee was in little doubt from AUT and NATFHE that, in common with all teachers' organisations, there would be no support for a performance pay scheme whatever the government's preference. There was certain to be a strong demand that priority goes to remedy pay shortfalls experienced by all staff. The pressure from personnel directors against any automatic scale movement should not be underestimated. They advanced the case for unrestrained managerialism with some energy, backed by some VCs from the former polytechnics.


A little progress has been made in the report on London area allowances. Bett recommends it be negotiated in the National Council and that the Higher Education Funding Council for England should make additional allowance in funding by reviewing the problem. Some unions have expressed a preference for consolidation of the allowances into basic pay. This is a trend, reported as extensive by Income Data Services (IDS) and Labour Research. The UCEA remains opposed although have not objected to the formulation in the Report.

5 Other conditions of employment


The report proposes that a core of minimum conditions be negotiated in the National Council where these should not differentiate between staff. These would cover holidays, special leave (e.g. parental, maternity), sick pay, access to grievance procedures, time for trade union duties, arrangements for health and safety consultation. Once negotiated nationally, they should be implemented locally within a deadline set by the National Council. This accords with TUC and long-standing AUT and NATFHE policies.


There are other arrangements recommended respectively for distinct groups. For example, the National Council is advised to plan a reduction in working time for manual staffs over three years to align them with other non-academic staff. Equally, it is recommended that working time arrangements for all academic should contain safeguards against overload in order to protect quality, allowing for some detailed negotiation at local level. It might be thought that, laudable as each of these recommendations may be, each would be better considered in the sub-councils covering the staff in scope of the recommendation. That will inevitably be how any negotiation would happen


Bett recommends that part-time staff be treated on an equality principle to pro-rata arrangements. This accords with policy.


The Committee recommends an end to the waiver clause in respect of redundancy pay for those on fixed-term contracts, with entitlement to payment after one year. Redundancy pay arrangements for academics and non-academics should be aligned unless differences can be justified. This broadly accords with policy.


The most radical and, potentially, the most divesting proposal is that pre-1992 universities 're-examine' their statutes to 'eliminate impediments to good management while maintaining proper safeguards for academic freedom and individuals'.


This Commentary notes that

  • there is unlikely to be an objection to core conditions where the basic rights of different groups of staff should be the same.

  • it will be essential to negotiate on distinct interests in the sub-councils and not in the National Council, strong as our support may be for the aspirations on unions in the sub-councils.

  • no deterioration in the workload safeguards in post-1992 institutions will be acceptable, and unity with NATFHE and EIS-ULA is of the greatest importance in this regard.

  • improvements in workload arrangements, which protect quality, are long overdue, but their form must be compatible with the professional work ethic of self-management rather than managerialist regulation.

  • pro-rata arrangements for part-time staff should be pursued urgently.

  • further elimination of waiver clauses going beyond the Employment Relations Act (1999) should be secured. It must be recognised that aside from welcoming the right to redundancy pay after one year, the concept of the same redundancy scheme for all staff may be largely unrealistic. Restructuring costs in academic environments are relatively costly for good reason. Nobody will want other staff to do poorly but there should be no diminution of payments to academic staff to justify higher payments elsewhere, or reductions in payments to academic staff to align them with other payments for ideological reasons.

  • changes to statue to make dismissal easier are extremely unlikely to be compatible with protection of academic freedom. The call by personnel directors to end 'elitist' statutes, and the formulation of the report give no account of how academic freedom might be protected. It is a change, which will be vehemently resisted, as the Committee has been told. It cannot be squared with the UNESCO protocol on this issue (i.e. the authoritative international legal framework).

6 Staff development


The Bett Report is clear that there are glaring gaps in staff development. There is no evidence that it is linked to any appraisal process and levels of investment are below most other advanced areas of the economy. The compelling evidence from manual and clerical staffs was that they had almost no development or prospect of career advancement.


The Report recommends that HEIs go for Investors in People status. While this will not appeal greatly to academic and related staff, it is necessary to understand that it is regarded by manual, clerical, craft and technical staff as a well-timed and valuable scheme in areas in which they are employed in the wider economy. The Association will wish to give careful consideration before appearing to reject something seen as the only channel to advancement by many unions.


Equally, the Report is clear that HEI management is not of the highest quality. In the case of the most senior managers, a firm basis in strategic skills is regarded as essential but, at present, not in place. At other levels, management is described as poorly informed and not prepared for their key tasks, not least the development of other staff.


The call for greater investment in these areas, and better development resources for all staff, is enhanced by the recognition that union representatives need time and funding to develop. Indeed, these resources are also needed for their representative functions.

7 Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland


While the institutions increasing democracy in Wales and Northern Ireland are not seen as requiring parallel machinery, Scotland (and the creation of the Scottish Parliament) are seen as needing specific arrangements. There would be, under the Report, a Scottish Committee advising the National Council and sub-councils. Its remit will not be separate negotiation. Indeed, the evidence shows that all but one union for UK-wide negotiations and the Scottish post-1992 employers agree for the first time to work on a UK basis. The remit will be to consider if any distinct decision of the Scottish Parliament requires special attention.


Developments elsewhere in the UK could lead to new arrangements of a similar kind.

8 Clinical academics


A special academic sub-committee will deal with this group. It will, for pay purposes, follow the decisions of the doctors' and dentists' pay review body (of course; or no clinical academics would stay in HE). There are a number of other issues related to the operation of pay arrangements detailed - the chapter of the report.


i Recommendation 50 (The Dearing Report) was that the higher education employers appoint, after consultation with staff representatives, an independent review committee to report by April 1998 on the framework for determining pay and conditions of service... The Chairman should be appointed on the nomination of the Government. The terms of reference for this review were: In the light of the changes in higher education proposed in the National Committee of Inquiry's report, and the need to answer the future well-being of higher education, to review and assess the options, and make recommendation for all staff in higher education on: The framework for negotiating pay and terms and conditions of service Whether the pay levels, for all or any group, need adjustments with a view to achieving: New ways of working as outlined in the national Committee's report; A link between conditions of service and remuneration; Arrangements which respect the autonomy and diversity of institutions and the need of each to answer its own financial well being and the quality of its provision; Appropriate transitional arrangements.

ii The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS). The key sector is the University Lecturers' Association (EIS-ULA) which represents a proportion of the lecturers in the post-1992 sector in Scotland. It is important to note that a further affiliated union in the Scottish TUC represents a group of lecturers, the Scottish Further and Higher Education Association (SFHEA); it has current recognition rights, which it might reasonably argue should not be disturbed.

iii An arrangement between employers and unions to pay for this service is envisaged in the Report.

iv The OME provide all the data for pay review bodies and are accepted by the Government as authoritative in all related matters.

v The TUC will be asked to help create greater agreement between the unions. It is possible that one further union has a claim in Scotland, ie SFHEA.

vi For definitions, see paragraph 3.7.

vii This Committee will not have a direct bargaining role. A great deal still turns on whether it extends to all groups or just 'academics'.


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