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Weekly news: 15 November 2019

Strikes on the cards after colleges refuse to prioritise staff

Colleges face potential disruption in the new year after UCU accused employers of a 'breach of faith' over pay and said it would consult members over strike action. The union told FE Week that the 1% pay recommendation made by the Association of Colleges at talks on Monday was "derisory" and would only widen the pay gap between school and college teachers.

Speaking to Tes, UCU head of further education Andrew Harden said: "To offer 1 per cent after joint campaigning and the recent funding announcement is a breach of faith that will rightly anger staff and leaves us with no option but to consult over strike action. It sends a clear signal to staff that they are not being prioritised, which threatens key relationships at precisely the time when the sector needs to work together."

Political parties pledge support for further education and adult learning

On the general election campaign trail, this week has seen several parties making announcements on support for further education and adult learning.

First up the Lib Dems announced plans for a new 'skills wallet' where adults would receive £10,000 in three instalments to support them in returning to adult learning. On Tuesday, Labour published the final report of its lifelong learning commission and announced a new learning entitlement that would fund adults to study for up to six years at level 4 to 6, and include a new right to paid time off for training. Finally, the Conservatives pledged £1.8bn in capital funding for further education on Wednesday.

Speaking to the BBC, UCU general secretary Jo Grady said the focus on adult learning was welcome because adult education had long been a "sorely neglected part of our education system", resulting in steep falls in the number of adult learners in recent years. She told Tes that "breaking down the practical and financial barriers to education is key to ensuring that all adults and communities can access the skills and learning they need to thrive."

In an article for Tes, UCU head of policy and campaigns, Matt Waddup - who sat on Labour's lifelong learning commission - said adult learning is a social justice issue and reflected on the need for a "fundamental shift from the current competitive provider model to one based on collaboration and social partnership [with] public universities, colleges, community learning providers and other reputable organisations working together".

Students demand tuition fee refunds over upcoming university strikes

Students at Bangor University are calling for compensation in advance of the university strikes due to begin later this month at 60 universities across the UK. Jo Grady told the Independent that the move was unsurprising but called for students to "help focus vice-chancellors' minds by asking them exactly what they are doing to help resolve these disputes. Students have told us that they are right behind us when it comes to the fight for fair pay and decent pensions in higher education - it is now up to the employers to address the concerns of staff."

Jane Hutton recognised for whistleblowing efforts

USS whistleblower Professor Jane Hutton's efforts to scrutinise the 2017 scheme valuation have been recognised by the judges of the prestigious John Maddox prize for Standing up for Science. The prize rewards those who persevere in 'communicating about science and evidence at a point when things became incredibly difficult and silence would have been the easiest option'.

UCU calls for more transparency as Dundee principal resigns

UCU Scotland has demanded greater transparency on senior pay and perks following the resignation of the University of Dundee's principal, Professor Andrew Atherton. His departure followed a suspension in September as part of a row over rent.

Speaking to the Courier, UCU Scotland official Mary Senior said: "At a time when university staff in Scotland - and across the UK - are preparing to strike over pay, pensions and working conditions, it is deeply concerning to see yet another principal hitting the headlines for all the wrong reasons. We urgently need much greater transparency when it comes to the pay and perks of university leaders, so staff and students can have confidence that they are acting in their best interests."

 

Last updated: 15 November 2019