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Taking action in higher education

In the news: 7 February 2020

Fourteen strike days at 74 UK universities in February and March

UCU members at 74 UK universities will walk out for 14 days in February and March. The action will start on Thursday 20 February and escalate each week, culminating with a week-long walkout from Monday 9 to Friday 13 March. There are some variations to account for things like academic timetables. The full details of who is out when can be found here.

iNews said this next wave of strikes will affect another 14 universities and an additional 200,000 students, as more UCU branches crossed a 50% turnout threshold required by law for them to take industrial action.

The Financial Times said the strikes were called after insufficient progress in talks with the employers' representatives on pay and conditions, and also on pensions.

Speaking to ITV News, UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: 'We have been clear from the outset that we would take serious and sustained industrial action if that was what was needed.' She told the Independent that, as well as the strikes starting later this month, the union was going to ballot members to secure a fresh mandate for further action if the disputes are not resolved.

 

Unconditional offers made by colleges up by 60%

Unconditional offers made by colleges have risen by 60 per cent in six years, according to new data.  Tes analysis of Ucas data on offers with an unconditional element to them reveals that the criticised practice is not only widespread among universities, but at colleges too.

In the 2019-20 admissions cycle, 40 colleges made offers with some sort of unconditional component. The explosion in unconditional offers from colleges is bad for students and symptomatic of a broken admissions system, said UCU head of further education Andrew Harden. 

Speaking to Tes, he said: 'Shifting to a system where students apply for their higher education courses after they receive their grades would make these type of unconditional offers redundant, and empower students to make informed decisions about where to study based on their achievement rather than vague estimates of their potential.'

 

Standstill funding is not enough, says UCU in response to Scottish budget

Commenting on the Scottish budget for 2020-21, which was set out yesterday by public finance minister Kate Forbes after Derek Mackay was forced to resign as finance secretary hours before he was due to deliver the budget, UCU said a pause to the cuts in funding was welcome but more investment was still needed.

UCU Scotland official Mary Senior said: 'Scottish universities will be relieved that this year's budget does not represent another real-terms cut, but standstill funding is not enough to address the financial challenges facing universities or increase confidence in the face of Brexit uncertainty.

'If we want world class universities that continue to provide excellent teaching and research - and ensure that all students have the opportunity to succeed - we need real investment.  It is time for the Scottish Government to invest properly in the people that deliver the teaching, research, student support and knowledge exchange for which our universities are renowned.'

 

EIS members vote for strikes at six Scottish universities

Members of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) trade union have voted for strike action at six Scottish universities in a row over pay. EIS members at the Glasgow School of Art, the University of the West of Scotland, Edinburgh Napier University, the University of Aberdeen, the University of Strathclyde and Abertay University passed the legal 50% turnout threshold.

A total of 437 lecturers across 15 Scottish universities were polled over the action with 79% backing strikes. The BBC said that details of any strike action were expected to be announced this week.

EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said: 'This action is a last resort, and results from management's unwillingness to negotiate a fair offer. We continue to seek a fair negotiated settlement and even at this late stage, we hope that management will come back to the table and deliver a fair cost of living increase.'

 

Rule change will force colleges to provide key staff data

Colleges will be required to provide key information about their workforce in the future, under plans announced this week by the Department for Education. The move, welcomed by UCU, means that from next year, all further education providers receiving government funding will be obliged to provide information about their staff in areas such as pay, contracts and training.

Workforce data is currently submitted on a voluntary basis through the Staff Individualised Record. Sanctions will be imposed if providers fail to submit the data, which the government has said could include a letter from ministers and being publicly named and shamed.

Speaking to FE Week, UCU head of further education Andrew Harden said the optional approach to workforce data collection had failed and that the union welcomed the move to compulsory collection. 'Good quality data is essential if we are to paint an accurate picture of how staff are being treated by employers across the sector,' he said.

 

EIS members vote for strikes at six Scottish universities

Members of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) trade union have voted for strike action at six Scottish universities in a row over pay. EIS members at the Glasgow School of Art, the University of the West of Scotland, Edinburgh Napier University, the University of Aberdeen, the University of Strathclyde and Abertay University passed the legal 50% turnout threshold.

A total of 437 lecturers across 15 Scottish universities were polled over the action with 79% backing strikes. The BBC said that details of any strike action were expected to be announced this week.

EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said: 'This action is a last resort, and results from management's unwillingness to negotiate a fair offer. We continue to seek a fair negotiated settlement and even at this late stage, we hope that management will come back to the table and deliver a fair cost of living increase.'

 

Protests over Home Office's refusal to grant Cambridge academic residency

Protests about the Home Office's "shocking" refusal to grant residency to Dr Asiya Islam, an "unequivocally superb" Indian sociologist at Cambridge University, have fallen on deaf ears, the Guardian reported on Tuesday.

Senior academics warned that unless the government reins in its aggressive application of immigration rules, talented international researchers will not want to come to the UK. Dr Islam is an expert on gender and class in urban India, has lived in the UK for a decade but the Home Office refused her application for indefinite leave to remain in November, saying she had spent too many days out of Britain during the application period. She had spent a year in Delhi conducting field research for her PhD - which has been backed up by Cambridge University.

The Guardian has recently reported on a number of other cases, including three at Oxford and one, Furaha Asani, from Leicester University. Dr Asani is under threat of being deported to the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country she has never visited.

 

English universities looking at ways to keep £9,250 fees for EU students

Some English universities are exploring whether they could continue to charge European Union students lower fees despite Brexit, as the government keeps under wraps a report on how changes to funding for these learners could impact sector finances.

Times Higher Education said that until now, it had been widely assumed that students from the EU would move on to international fee status once the UK's departure from the bloc was complete. Reports last year indicated that the government could withdraw EU students' home fee status and access to public student loans from 2021-22 onwards.

The magazine said that a number of English universities were exploring whether they can find a legal justification to continue offering EU students the same £9,250 fees as domestic students, amid fears that recruitment could suffer if fees were increased to the levels of those for non-EU overseas students. The average fee for non-EU overseas undergraduates at UK universities - not subject to any cap - was £16,000 in 2019-20.

 

 

Last updated: 27 March 2020

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