Website URL : http://www.ucu.org.uk/2087
Professional issues in higher education
As the key voice of practitioners in higher education UCU seeks to influence education policy, campaigns for adequate funding for the sector and works for a high quality learning and research environment in every institution.
Teacher education under attack: a UCU campaign briefing
Teacher education in higher education has a long and proud history. Now it faces a fundamental attack that will cause long-term damage to the quality of teacher education in England. This new briefing looks at what's happening and what you can do.
Response to Risk-Based Quality Assurance Consultation
UCU has responded to the consultation on a risk-based quality assurance system in England. Amongst other things our response argued that for-profit corporate forms be treated automatically as high risk and regulated accordingly, with a distinctive set of regulatory processes and checks applying. A new risk-based approach was one of the recommendations of the 2011 HE White Paper. For more on UCU's response to the White Paper, go to http://whitepaper.web.ucu.org.uk/.
Response to UK Quality Code for Higher Education
UCU has responded to the Learning and Teaching chapter of the QAA consultation on the UK Quality Code for Higher Education. Our response stressed the importance of involving staff in the quality assurance process, the key role of trade unions in negotiating probation and promotion procedures and the value of comprehensive CPD programmes for all. In addition, it highlighted the danger of reduced public funding for teaching on the quality of student learning opportunities.
Updated REF code of practice guidance
UCU has updated its guidance on the REF codes of practice which identifies best practice and key principles that branches/LAs should seek to include in codes of practice being developed by their HEIs prior to the 31 July deadline. Click here for this and more on the REF
UCU's Response to the DfE Consultation on Initial Teacher Education
UCU responded to the Department of Education's consultation, Training Outstanding Teachers on 29 July 2011. UCU is completely opposed to any wholesale shift of ITE away from the currently highly successful HEI-school partnership model which received the best OfSTED evaluation ever in the HMI Annual Report 2010.
UCU's response to 'Training our next generation of outstanding teachers', July 2011 (.pdf) [254kb]
Postgraduate research funding - UCU response
UCU has responded to the HEFCE consultation on postgraduate research funding. In the response we raised concerns about the proposals to further concentrate doctoral funding in a small number of higher education institutions. We also called for an open, evidence-led debate on the future of UK research and postgraduate research funding, including the current drift towards 'hyper-concentration'.
The Science and Technology Select Committee undertook an inquiry into the impact of the science and research budget allocations for 2011/12 to 2014/15. UCU's response focuses on huge cuts to the capital budget as well on real terms cuts to recurrent funding. It also addresses the increased concentration of research funding, growing government interference in the research policy process and the reduction in funding for equality and diversity projects in science, engineering and technology. Read UCU's response in full here.
New review on external examiners is 'missed opportunity'
UCU has warned that academics could be deterred from becoming external examiners after a new report failed to recommend better pay and service conditions. Responding to Universities UK's Review of external examining arrangements, UCU said the review had 'missed an opportunity' to offer external examiners decent support and recognition and warned that external examining would continue to be seen as a 'Cinderella service'. Read more here: New review on external examiners is 'missed opportunity' and in the Times Higher.
Public information about HE - UCU response
UCU has responded to a new consultation on public information in higher education. The HEFCE/Universities UK consultation recommends the establishment of a Key Information Set (KIS) for prospective students. New sources of information will include the cost of tuition fees, an overall total of weekly expected study hours and an average salary in the first year after completing the course. While students should have straightforward access to good, relevant information about HE courses and institutions, we are sceptical that the KIS will fulfil the objective of 'informing people about the quality of higher education'. UCU is also concerned that the KIS, particularly new employability data, reinforces a consumerist agenda in higher education.
Broken research funding promise
UCU has said the government was showing 'disgraceful neglect' towards universities and the academic community after it announced plans for the future of university research funding.
Universities minister, David Willetts, delayed the announcement after a campaign led by UCU to scrap a proposal that would see 25% of future research to be assessed on 'economic impacts'. But UCU said he had broken his promise to listen to academics as the government announced that the impact element will still be a key part of how research quality is assessed. Under the new framework the three elements being assessed will be weighted as such - output 65%, impact 20% and environment 15%.
Changes to the QAA's 'Academic Infrastructure'
UCU has responded to the consultation on changes to the Academic Infrastructure organised by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA). Overall, we support the proposal to make a clearer distinction between 'standards' and 'quality' in the new Code of Practice and to move away from the use of the term 'Academic Infrastructure'. However, we believe that there needs to be greater emphasis on support for academic and academic-related staff within the overall quality assurance system and call on the QAA to highlight the dangers of a marketised approach to quality and standards:
UK professional standards framework in higher education
UCU has responded to the Higher Education Academy's (HEA) review of the UK professional standards framework. While UCU shares the HEA's desire to improve the recognition of teaching, the new framework risks moving into areas which are essentially matters for employer-union negotiations. We also believe that many of the recommendations are unrealistic in the current funding environment:
UCU joins the campaign to reform the English libel law
Freedom to criticise and question is the cornerstone of argument and debate, whether in scholarly journals, on websites, in newspapers or elsewhere. The current libel laws in England, however, inhibit debate and stifle free expression. They discourage writers from tackling important subjects and thereby deny the public the right to read about them. That's why the UCU has joined the growing campaign to reform England's libel laws: letter in support of libel law reform campaign, Jan 11 (.pdf) [23kb]
The union is represented on a number of educational bodies and offers advice to members on a range of professional issues. In this area you will find information on this work listed by topic below.
UCU has also brought together advice and policy published by its predecessor unions, AUT and NATFHE. If you require any further advice please contact Rob Copeland.
Over the coming months the Knowledge Economy campaign, of which UCU is a founding partner, will be making the case for investment in colleges and universities to every politician, but we need your help.
Teaching and learning
UCU works to ensure that teaching and learning is fully valued and supported, and for all staff to have the opportunities to teach in a research informed and active environment - we are opposed to the creation of 'teaching-only' universities.
Research and scholarship
UCU campaigns for increased funding for UK research, and for the maintenance of the link between research and teaching in HE.
Governance in HE
UCU has long campaigned for open, transparent and democratic governance at all levels within higher education institutions.
Professional development in HE
UCU has been active in pressing for access to development opportunities for all staff, including academic-related staff and hourly-paid part-timers.
UCU campaigns on relevant legislation on education, skills and training, and employment relations. On-going and recent campaigns are listed below.