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University privatisation bandwagon crashes to a halt in Oxford

29 March 2007

A flawed scheme to privatise a university department has been rejected by Oxford Brookes University after a vigorous campaign by staff to defend educational quality and jobs.

The company INTO, which has privatisation plans for up to twelve other universities, had sought to take over the running of ICELS (International Centre for English Language Studies) at Oxford Brookes and to acquire land also belonging to the university as part of the deal.

INTO has been accused of seeking to relax educational standards for students and reduce pay and conditions for teaching staff at its language centres at the universities of Exeter and East Anglia in order to make them profitable.

Staff, supported by UCU and Unison argued that the language centre should remain an integral part of our university and pointed to fears that the quality of education would fall if it was in private hands. A survey by UCU in February 2007 had found that just one in six (17%) of the public supported an increase in the role of the private sector in UK universities, with most against.

Speaking today, Sally Hunt joint general secretary of UCU said: 'I am delighted for ICELS staff and students that Oxford Brookes has decided to send INTO packing after a proactive local campaign, strongly supported by UCU regionally and nationally. The introduction of INTO would have threatened the jobs and pay of our members but also the high standard of education provided by these dedicated staff. I hope that other universities in talks will now follow Oxford Brookes lead in rejecting privatisation knowing that UCU will fight INTO's proposals wherever they appear."

Angie Pears, co-chairperson of Oxford Brookes UCU said: 'This victory is testimony to the staff in ICELS who, alongside UCU, have stuck together and engaged in a highly professional way with the university and with external bodies.  I would like to thank everyone who has supported our ICELS members over the past few months and hope that the rejection of INTO at Oxford Brookes is the first of many at other universities around the country.'
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