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In the news 31 July 2020

31 July 2020

New study demonstrates huge local economic impact of universities amid bankruptcy fears

Universities typically support up to one additional job in the immediate local economy for every person they directly employ, according to a new analysis released today by Hatch Regeneris for UCU. It shows universities are often among the largest local employers in the UK and have a huge impact on local economies. For example, in the North East more people are directly employed in higher education (20,000) than in car manufacturing (9,000).

Speaking to Times Higher, UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: 'With every university job leading to another job in the local area, it is now vital that instead of talking our universities down the government protects them. The Welsh government has led the way and the Westminster government now needs to come up with a comprehensive financial support package to ensure that no institution will fail.'

In Wonkhe, Hatch Regeneris director Tim Fanning set out the economic importance of universities and warned that a university going bust could be devastating for its local economy.  


UCU members to defend most vulnerable staff as universities refuse to come clean on job cut plans

On Monday UCU launched action to support casualised staff and urged members to support their most vulnerable colleagues by signing up to 10 pledges and putting pressure on their universities.

At King's College London over a thousand fixed-term staff have been told their contracts are under review. At the University of Liverpool more than 600 face the sack, at Goldsmiths the number is around 400 and close to 300 at Essex. That means 2,280 jobs are likely to go at just four institutions. The union said if this picture was repeated across the sector then almost 30,000 fixed-term contracts would be at risk.

Writing in the Guardian, Jo Grady explained that many universities are trying to hide their cuts to casualised staff, who they see as disposable when a crisis hits. She called on staff to join UCU in the campaign to fight back.

Speaking to Times Higher, Jo said: 'Universities have made promises that they will be delivering high-quality teaching both online and face-to-face in the autumn. You cannot deliver that by sacking thousands of people. With just weeks until the start of the new academic year, universities still are not coming clean about their plans and what they will mean for the tens of thousands of staff on insecure contracts and with an uncertain future.'

The Labour Party backed the campaign, saying "more must be done to protect these jobs in the months ahead".


UCU members reject employers' four fights offer

Yesterday Research Professional reported that UCU members voted against accepting the latest deal on pay and conditions offered by the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA).

UCU members at 69 universities had held 22 days' action over the 'four fights' dispute of pay, equality, precarity and workload in February.

UCEA responded with a pledge to address concerns about individuals' workloads and mental health, and to look at closing gender and ethnicity pays. The deal also included a 1.8 per cent pay increase, which UCEA said was not open to negotiation.

The union had recommended that members reject the UCEA offer prior to balloting them.

The ballot resulted in 61% of members rejecting the offer.

A spokesperson for UCU said: 'We will now be consulting widely with members and branches to consider the next steps in the four fights dispute.'


Satisfaction with USS hits record low yet CEO bags pay rise and £200,000 bonus

Member satisfaction with the Universities Superannuation Scheme - the pension scheme at the heart of recent UCU disputes - has plummeted to a record low. The USS annual report and accounts released this week showed that less than a quarter of members are happy with the scheme, compared to 31% last year and over half (53%) just three years ago.

The report also showed that the number of staff being paid over £100,000 has grown by 10% and is now 144 (up from 131 the previous year). Three members of USS staff now earn more than £1million a year (up from two last year).

Times Higher Education also reported that USS chief executive officer Bill Galvin saw his salary and benefits rise by almost £30,000 from £459,163 to £486,410. He was also awarded a £212,009 bonus - more than double the £103,419 he received in 2019.


Gloucestershire University humanities cuts labelled 'bizarre'

The BBC reported on Monday that staff are challenging cuts to the humanities department at the University of Gloucestershire.

The university said the courses have struggled to recruit enough students for "several years" and that it aims to "bring financial viability" back into balance by the end of this financial year. But course leader in creative writing, Dr Angela France, said staff were "all working to capacity and above" and any cuts would mean larger class sizes for students

Creative writing Masters student, Claire Harrison said: "We're in the town with the biggest literature festivals in the country, how can our university not be offering humanity subjects, it just seems bizarre."

UCU regional official Anne O'Sullivan said: 'The university has said it will be conducting a wider review of humanities in the autumn. We fear this means it already has further job losses in mind. We will fight any cuts that negatively impact staff and the university's academic capacity.'

Last updated: 31 July 2020