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ULA Annual Conference 2017

  

The 2017 FELA Annual Conference was held on Wednesday 29th March. Members from HE institutions across Scotland were in attendance to debate and vote on EIS-ULA policy priorities for the year ahead.

 

 Motions  Resolutions

That this Conference resolves to undertake a Workload Survey across its membership to assess the impact of voluntary severance schemes, redundancies and lack of recruitment in recent years.

 Carried.

The AGM notes the following:

• the significant time and resource being devoted to preparing for the next REF;
• the risk that these preparations will distort the research agenda;
• the risks to temporary or casual staff currently undertaking research;
• that the Campaign for the Public University, Boycott the Next REF, and Council for the Defence of British Universities, amongst others, have used the current funding regime for research as a way of critiquing the programme of privatisation of HE.

The AGM believes that:

• students should be taught in an environment where research and scholarship is happening;
• parity of esteem should be given to all types of research regardless of form or how funded;
• research needs more funding.

Conference therefore asks the EIS to:

(i) encourage all HE branches to work with the CDBU (Council for the Defence of British Universities), Students' Unions and others to organise regional meetings in autumn and spring to debate and refine a series of principles to govern the funding and scope of HE research;

(ii) support an EIS event, with other campaign groups, showcasing the union's policy on research, encouraging debate about alternatives to the current regime within the union and the sector, seeking a fundamental review of the REF and committing to a campaign for a democratic alternative to the REF;

(iii) develop principles on which to base a new system of research funding, and tests against which we can judge future government proposals, including equality impacts;

(iv) campaign for an alternative research funding model.

 Carried.

The AGM notes the following:

• that our sister union, the National Union of Students (NUS), has called for a boycott of the National Student Survey (NSS);
• that the NSS is a fundamentally flawed tool for measuring student satisfaction and academic quality.

We resolve:

(i)  to write to the NUS to express our full support for their boycott;

(ii) that the EIS shares with its own members materials on the reasons for the boycott and defending the right of staff to express a position of support for the NUS action;

(iii) that as long as our own pay dispute from 2016/17 remains ongoing, to continue our own boycotting of the promotion of the NSS as part of our action short of strike action;

(iv) ask local EIS branches to work closely with student unions to see how best the boycott may be implemented.

Carried. 

This AGM notes:
• the proliferation of performance review auditing schemes in HE at a time of increased workload and diminishing resources;
• the pernicious effects and added administrative burden of such auditing schemes;
• the complexity and subjectivity involved in auditing academic work;
• the risk that auditing will distort research and teaching;
• that a good "performance” is not the same as a good lecturer or researcher.

We resolve to:

(I) oppose any introduction of targets linked to academic staff salaries.

(ii) support branches in opposing the imposition of performance review schemes;

(iii) encourage branches to make FOIs to find out whether particular groups of staff are disproportionately rated as underperforming;

(iv) instruct the EIS to prepare and disseminate materials outlining the problems with performance review schemes and how to oppose them.

 Carried.

The AGM notes:

• the UK government’s attacks on international students, EU/EAA workers, immigrants and refugees;
• the rise in racist attacks and intimidation following the vote for Brexit;
• the risks to non-British citizens right to work and study in the UK;
• the declining rate of applications from overseas students.

We resolve to campaign for:

(i) freedom of movement and opposition to points-based immigration schemes before and after our exit from the EU has taken effect;

(ii) up-front guarantee for existing EU/ EEA citizens living in the UK to have an indefinite and inalienable right to remain, whatever their employment, family or other situation;

(iii) immediate removal of international students from net migration targets;

(iv) full recognition of workers’ rights, regardless of nationality, throughout EU withdrawal negotiations;

(v) to lobby universities to protect non-British citizens’ rights to work and study in UK universities with same conditions and rights as their British counterparts.

 Carried.

This Conference notes:

• the first AGM of the Scottish Universities Supporting Palestinian Students (SUSPS) in march 2017; 
• SUSPS work since 2014 in raising awareness of the plight of Palestinian students;
• the raising of finances by SUSPS to fund 2 scholarships of Palestinian students to study at a Scottish University (Queen Margaret University);
• the unanimous support of the STUC at the 2015 and 2016 Congress;
• the proposal to establish a SUSPS committee with representatives from supportive trade unions. 

This Conference resolves to:

(i) Call on the EIS to affiliate to SUSPS, and pay the requisite fee for affiliation;

(ii) Send a representative of the EIS/ULA to the SUSPS committee;

(iii) Lobby the management of Universities where the ULA are represented to introduce fee –waivers for potential Palestinian students;

(iv) Campaign for funds to help more scholarships for Palestinian students be established across all Scottish Universities.

 Carried.

This Conference notes:

• the ongoing crisis at Glasgow Caledonian University over their "campus" in New York City; 
• that £10 million has been spent even though not one student has enrolled due to the failure to gain a licence from the Education Authorities;
• that two people employed at GCU New York earn over £140,000 - making them amongst the highest paid in Scottish Higher Education;
• GCU (along with several other Scottish Universities) posted a deficit in the last financial year;
• this scheme continues to be endorsed by Court despite the reservations of the Combined Unions on campus; 
• a lobby of Holyrood was organised by the Combined Unions from GCU on Thursday 23rd March. 

This Conference resolves to:

(i) To support the Combined Unions at GCU campaign for an independent investigation into GCU New York and the expenses involved;

(ii) To campaign for an implementation of the governance reforms passed by the Higher Education Governance (Scotland) Act 2016 to ensure that staff concerns play a key role in the running of Scottish Universities.

 Carried.

That this Conference resolves to campaign for all Universities to recognise the need to provide a work life balance for academic staff and to provide greater support for staff wellbeing.

 Carried.

This AGM notes:

• the continuing scandal of zero-hours contracts and other casualised and non-permanent contracts in Higher Education;
• the insecurities faced by staff on casualised and non-permanent contracts;
• that the proliferation of casualised contracts is harmful to the student experience and academic quality.

We resolve:

(i) to campaign for universities to publish data showing the proportion of their staff on casualised and non-permanent contracts, together with the proportion of classes that are taught by staff on these contracts;

(ii) to call on universities to agree to a joint review of all casualised and non-permanent contracts;

(iii) to work closely and share information with Better Than Zero and other groups opposed to zero hours contacts;

(iv) to lobby the Scottish Government for the complete abolition of zero-hours contracts in Higher Education.

 Carried.

This AGM notes:

• the proliferation of "teaching only" contracts in Higher Education including staff with the job titles such as teaching fellow, variable hours teaching fellow, part-time teaching fellow, fractional teaching fellow, casual teaching assistant and associate lecturer, etc;
• the increased risk of casualisation for those employed on these contracts;
• that those engaged in teaching only contracts do not have the same opportunities for reward and career progression as those in other academic roles;
• that students benefit from being taught in an environment in which high quality research is taking place.  

We resolve to:

(i) campaign for an end to 9 month contracts that don't pay staff outside of term time; 

(ii) campaign for staff on teaching only contracts to be given the same opportunities for reward and career progression as those in other academic roles;

(iii) call on employers to set a cap on the number of teaching only contracts as part of a long-term aim to end the use of such contracts;

(iv) work alongside sister unions and other groups to organise a meeting in the autumn to explore alternatives to teaching only contracts.

 Carried.