The Manchester Association of University Teachers (MAUT) was established on 14 July 1919 as a Local Association (LA) of the Association of University Teachers, or AUT. The AUT is the trade union and professional body for higher education professionals. It negotiates members' salaries and conditions of employment and provides access to advice, information and support if members experience problems at work. It also seeks to improve higher education by working as a pressure group, seeking to influence public opinion, Government and the universities in the interests of its members.
The Association of University Teachers was itself established on 28 June 1919. Its foundation marked the coming together for the first time of staff from all levels of university teaching, professorial and non-professorial alike, from a range of universities. The pressure for this national organisation came, primarily, from the non-professorial staff of civic universities and university colleges who, despite often carrying out the same duties as professorial staff, were poorly paid and represented. Unlike the professors on Senate or Council, the assistant staff were not represented at that time on the governing bodies of their institutions and thus felt less able to air their grievances or to influence their pay and conditions.
Key to the AUT's development were the efforts of R. Douglas Laurie, then a young lecturer, who was instrumental in bringing together many of the existing autonomous groups of discontented junior staff in a variety of higher education institutions. Moves towards the creation of a single Association began in January 1910 when the junior staff of Liverpool entertained representatives of the junior staffs from Bristol, Sheffield, Birmingham, Cardiff and Manchester. Although these efforts were cut short by the outbreak of War, by 1917 the junior staff had renewed their efforts, largely in the face of inflation. The Liverpool Association, of which Laurie was now Secretary, decided to approach the assistant staffs of all universities in the British Isles with a view to a meeting and joint memorandum. The meeting was held on 15 December 1917 at the Exchange Hotel, Liverpool, attended by representatives from fifteen universities and university colleges, including Manchester. It was the first of a series of conferences of what was to first become the Association of University Lecturers.
The junior staff of Manchester University played a key role in broadening the remit of the Association as originally envisaged, calling for it to include professorial as well as non-professorial staff and to maintain the co-operation of the University Senate and Council. Manchester was not alone in its concerns; Leeds, for example, thought the Liverpool memorandum so divisive that it drew up another, supported by Manchester and, with additions, by Bedford College, London. These efforts initially met with disappointment, however a crisis over superannuation served to unite the profession. The Manchester junior staff and their delegates, H. B. Charlton and George Hickling, seized on this unity of interests, securing support from their Senate and Vice-Chancellor for a wider Association - an Association of University Teachers of all ranks and amended the draft rules of the national Association to accommodate them, including the insertion of the name Association of University Teachers. They also gathered the signatures of the Vice Chancellor, the Registrar, the Principal of the College of Science and Technology, 28 professors and 46 lecturers to a declaration signifying their intention to constitute themselves a Manchester branch of the Association. Their approach worked. At the Bristol Conference on 27-28 June 1919 professorial delegates were admitted, nine of them, from Bristol, Durham Liverpool, Nottingham, Southampton, Bangor, and Cardiff as well as Manchester. Furthermore, on 28 June 1919, the motion, proposed by R. J. Tabor of Imperial College and seconded by George Hickling of Manchester That the name of the Association be the Association of University Teachers was carried. The first official Council meeting was held at Manchester University on 12-13 December 1919.
For a long time, it remained a professional body run by amateurs [Perkin, p. 49]. However, as the number of students and thereby university staff grew, and society's view of the role of the university shifted, so did the AUT become an increasingly professional body with an ever-broader remit. The Association admittedly remained very much concerned with issues of status, grading, salaries and superannuation amongst junior staff but the need to improve the financial situation of the universities and their staff helped to forge strong links between the AUT and the vice-chancellors and governing bodies of the universities, since both were keen to display a united front to the public and Government. An agreed scheme of minimum salaries and a system of grading was produced by a series of three Joint Conferences between university administrations and the AUT's Executive members in 1921. This scheme provided the basis for the AUT's policy, publicity and pressure on the question of pay throughout the inter-war period, although it failed to significantly increase Government contributions. Furthermore, the AUT's attempts in the 1920s and 1930s to force universities to bring their salaries up to the general level, earned the resentment of some within the Vice-Chancellors' Committee, due especially to an increasingly strong alliance between the University Grants Committee and the AUT. It was only in the face of the economic slump of 1932 and renewed cutting of government grants to universities that joint pressure was restored.
The AUT was also increasingly involved in campaigns for the general expansion of opportunities for higher education and in particular, the expansion of technology in the universities. In a world increasingly specialized and professional, the universities were looked upon to provide professional experts. Thus they were pressurized from both society and the state to provide an ever-greater variety of subjects and services whilst also being called upon to reduce costs. This sparked debate between those universities who welcomed the teaching of new science and technologies and those, such as Sir Charles Grant Robertson, Principal (Vice-Chancellor) of Birmingham and Chairman of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals, who urged against producing a highly professional mediocrity [Perkin, p. 62]. Althought the AUT remained overwhelmingly representative of civic universities and continually stood for expansion of universities in general and of science and technology in particular, there were those amongst its members who were wary of such developments. Nevertheless, an increasing range of science and technologies were introduced in this period, for example aeronautics at Cambridge and building construction at Manchester.
In terms of safeguarding the rights of non-professorial staff, the AUT had much to do. The Association of University Lecturers' memorandum to the governing bodies in 1918 had declared that The tenure of the Lecturer's post remains, in many cases, limited and insecure, and, as a result, much of his work is restricted and made less effective [Perkin, p. 82]. It asked that probationary appointments should be confined to Grade III and not extend over more than three years and also that lecturers should have adequate representation on the university governing bodies. In these aims it again found powerful and continuous support from the University Grants Committee. The guidance of this Committee and pressure from the AUT gradually took effect; the so-called Sub-committee on Representation of Teaching Staffs upon University Bodies was indeed able to report in 1927 that non-professorial staff were elected or appointed to the Faculties of twelve universities, of which Manchester was one. Non-professorial staff were also noted as being represented on the Council of that University although, significantly, not on the Senate.
The AUT also became increasingly concerned with international affairs. Since its foundation, the AUT had come into contact with foreign academics and universities. Indeed , in 1922, the AUT had established a sub-committee on relations with teachers in colonial universities, and, in 1924, this sub-committee was reconstituted under Professor F. E. Weiss, a member of Manchester University, and widened in scope to cover all overseas universities. Not much came of this however until there was a resurgence of interest in international affairs in the late 1920s and early 1930s, when a new standing sub-committee was set-up to consider a means of international co-operation. The first of a series of international conferences was held at Oxford in 1934.
With the outbreak of the Second World War international affairs were thrust even further to the fore. In 1942, the Executive appointed a Sub-committee on Post-war Developments which began a wholesale review of the AUT's policy. The resulting tripartite Report on University Developments which the AUT issued in 1944 and 1945 was an attempt to determine the role and contribution of the universities and of university teachers in the ideal post-war society. The first part dealt with entry to the universities, degree courses, the structure of universities, inter-university co-operation, the staff and their remuneration, and student co-operation. The second and third went on to consider the national and international role and functions of universities. Its arguments for the need of increased international co-operation continued after the War, with a delegation being sent to a Joint Conference in Paris on 2 January 1946, along with French delegates and guest representatives from eleven other countries, to discuss Anglo-French relations and what to do about the German universities.
Laurie's death on 7 April 1953 forced a further reorganisation of the AUT. The continued expansion of the university teaching profession, of public concern with its role in national life and hopes of development, and of its relations with Parliament and Government over the next fifteen years was on such a scale that the AUT would be compelled to "abandon its traditionally amateur organisation and become as professional as organs of government, industry and the trade unions with which it was called upon increasingly to deal on equal terms of argument and expertise, if not power." [Perkin, p. 159]