Brighter outlook forecast

University staff are looking to HR professionals to take the lead as recruitment and retention problems hamper higher education.

These problems reflect the chill wind blowing through higher education, according to the chairman of the Universities Personnel Association, Ged Murray.

Speaking at the UPA’s annual conference in Stirling, attended by 150 HRmanagers, he warned of “continuing chronic underfunding in higher education” that causes “considerable recruitment and retention problems”.

Murray said, “We have got to recognise that the old solutions that have worked for years just don’t apply anymore. There are new contracts and new ways of working and each institution has to find its own way to work if they are to survive.”

The UPA tackled many of the recommendations in the Bett report on higher education pay and conditions, which was published last year and promised more than £450m of new money.

Murray said, “We opposed some of the recommendations of Bett because they seemed to be a return to the bad old days of collective bargaining associated with the local public sector. Our opposition has ensured that we will have an employee relations framework to deal with our present realities.”

The conference later heard from Sir Graeme Davies, vice-chancellor of the University of Glasgow, who said, “The Government will act upon the recruitment and retention problems we are facing if they become so serious that they impact upon their objectives, but probably only when the situation is very serious.

“There are increased pressures because of competition at home and abroad which universities cannot compete against. If the current pressures increase then I believe that there will be difficulties in maintaining national pay bargaining and we will have to move towards local bargaining.”

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