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Let over 65s work if they wish - colleges will soon need them

7 December 2006 | last updated: 14 December 2015

Today, as the high court referred a case on compulsory retirement at 65 to the European Court of Justice, UCU warned that preventing employees from working beyond 65, if they wish, could seriously worsen an imminent staffing shortage in further education colleges.

Few young people are becoming college lecturers - just 19% of college teaching staff were aged under 35 in 2003, but 27% of teaching staff - nearly 34,000 staff - were aged between 50 and 59. FE faces a staffing crisis when those currently in their fifties retire in decade from now. In universities, a fifth of teaching staff are over 55.

Current UK law permits employers to force staff to retire on their 65th birthday. This was challenged this week by Heyday, Age Concern's membership organisation which claimed that the UK was not correctly applying new EU legislation on the setting of retirement age. Today the high court referred the case to the European court of justice in Luxembourg.

Roger Kline, head of equality and employment rights at UCU said: 'I hope the Europe Court will rule in favour of the right to work beyond 65 if desired. Mature employees provide valuable experience and knowledge and skills which are not easily replaced. Over 40,000 teachers in further education will need to be replaced in the coming decade and even if pay and conditions are improved, as needed, to attract young newcomers, many lecturers over 65 may also be needed to fill the expected staffing gap.

'In colleges and universities many staff are keen to retire before 65, often for health reasons in a stressful working environment, but some wish to work on. Some will need to work beyond 65 for economic reasons but others may wish to because of a passion for education.

'Older students have rights too, and access to education in retirement is important for recreation, stimulation and well-being. The current cutbacks in adult education courses is hitting retired people hard. It is insulting and wasteful and should be reversed.'