Select Committee on Science and Technology Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the Universities and Colleges Employers' Association (UCEA)


  1.  UCEA is the employers' association representing all HE institutions in the UK. It would like the Select Committee to consider the very real and urgent need for modernisation of the procedures set out in the model statute for pre-1992 universities. Universities have already submitted a Draft Revised Model Statute to the Privy Council in March 2002 for its consideration and approval (a copy with explanatory notes is attached). This will remove a barrier to good management for universities which has resulted in an over-reliance on fixed-term contracts instead of the appropriate use of permanent contracts. Moreover, revised procedures will ensure the application of effective and fair employment procedures for academic and research staff in line with good practice and will continue to robustly protect academic freedom. UCEA has agreed Guidance on Fixed-Term and Casual Employment in HE[59] (copy attached) with all the recognised unions which encourages the use of permanent contracts as the norm and the use of fixed-term contracts only in the well-defined circumstances identified in the Guidance (see paragraph 9).


  2.  The Model Statute procedures apply only in pre-1992 universities. They set down mandatory disciplinary, grievance, redundancy and appeals procedures for academic, research and other related staff. The Model Statute and its procedures were put in place in all pre-1992 universities from 1990 under the supervision of the University Commissioners appointed by the Privy Council. The Government took this step under sections 202-208 of the Education Reform Act 1988 in order to dispose of academic tenure (whereby academic staff could not be dismissed for redundancy) whilst continuing to protect academic freedom and fair treatment of staff.


  3.  However, the Model Statute procedures are too prescriptive and have proved to be legalistic, lengthy and expensive to operate. They do not accord with the ACAS Code of Practice. As a result, universities rarely use them and the procedures therefore fail to achieve their purpose. Instead, where posts are funded by short-term monies, universities have been forced to use a short-term contract which matches the duration of the funding including adding extensions to match the renewal of the funding. Because a fixed-term contract contains the termination date as part of the contract, this avoids the necessity of having to go through the model statute process. For this reason, the model statute procedures were described in the Bett Report as "impediments to good management" and it recommended that universities update the procedures. For convenience, the relevant paragraphs 221 and 222 are quoted below. The Bett Report is an independent review of Higher Education pay and conditions published in June 1999. The Follett Report[60] also makes a similar recommendation. The relevant paragraph 66 is also quoted below.


  4.  Revised and updated Model Statute procedures would encourage universities to make more appropriate use of permanent contracts in the knowledge that normal and fair procedures could be used in circumstances where necessary eg the ending of the short-term funding or the completion of the project. These procedures would include looking for alternative internal or external funding to continue the work or, if the work is ended, redeployment for staff (see paragraph 5 of the Guidance). In addition, the Draft Revised Model Statute provides enhanced rights for fixed-term postholders because there must not only be a proper process of consideration but the justification for not renewing the appointment must fall within one of the prescribed grounds (see clause 16).


  5.  After extensive consultation with universities and the relevant unions (AUT,BDA, BMA), a working group chaired by Professor Graham Zellick, Vice-Chancellor, University of London has submitted a revised model statute (copy attached) to the Privy Council on 5 March 2002 for consideration and approval based on the following principles:

    (i)  to apply to academic staff the ordinary principles of employment law applicable to all employees

    (ii)  to preserve and reinforce the principle of academic freedom

    (iii)  to secure due process and compliance with the Human Rights Act

    (iv)  to simplify and clarify the Statute and remove matters of detail to Ordinances.

  6.  The Privy Council has agreed to liaise with the DfES and the devolved administrations on the matter. We hope they will be in a position to decide by September this year. It is our view—and we have discussed this informally with the Privy Council and the DfES—that there is no need for primary legislation to introduce a revised model statute. If the Privy Council approves the revised model it will be a matter for each university to adopt it and apply formally to the Privy Council for approval of the change of their statutes. This will be a straightforward process since that was the purpose of drawing up a national model.


7.  The Bett Report

    "221 Whilst recognising that these complex and drawn-out procedures were put in place as safeguards of academic freedom, we were concerned that they could also be obstacles to necessary management action to adjust the university's staffing levels or profile, or to remove ineffective staff. Moreover, it seems that the perceptions of many university managements have been coloured by a small number of `worst case' experiences, and there is consequently a reluctance to pursue redundancy or dismissal except in the most clear-cut cases.

    222 Against that background, we recommend that all pre-1992 universities should

re-examine their statutes with a view to tackling the difficult task of securing approval

(from the Privy Council, in most cases) for amendments which eliminate impediments to good management whilst ensuring fair treatment for individuals and safeguarding academic freedom."

8.  The Follet Report

    "66. Disciplinary procedures are complex and often require long periods of time. It is right that they should provide for fair and transparent processes, and for the full protection of the interests of staff members. We understand that both the NHS and some universities are currently working towards simplification of their procedures, while retaining essential safeguards for staff. This should in particular ease the position of those universities whose disciplinary procedures are governed by the `model statute' clause in their charters. We welcome these moves, and hope that they will be carried to a conclusion, since more straightforward processes will considerably facilitate joint working."


  9.  Subject to satisfying the Privy Council on any queries they may have, UCEA would urge the Select Committee to support the approval of a revised model statute.

1 August 2002

59   JNCHES Guidance for Higher Education Institutions on Fixed-Term and Casual Employment June 2002 agreed between UCEA and Amicus, AUT, EIS, GMB, NATFHE, T&GWU, Unison. Back

60   A Review of Appraisal, Disciplinary and Reporting Arrangements for Senior NHS and University Staff with Academic and Clinical Duties "A report to the Secretary of State for Education and Skills", by Professor Sir Brian Follett and Michael Paulson-Ellis. September 2001. Back

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