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UCU calls for halt to creeping privatisation of universities

30 January 2007

UCU has today written to the UK's university umbrella group opposing increasing levels of private sector involvement in key university functions.

The union will also be contacting every vice-chancellor and principal to seek an assurance that privatisation plans will be halted.

In a letter to Universities UK President, Drummond Bone, UCU joint general secretary, Sally Hunt, says the union is particularly disturbed about private companies such as Study Group International, KAPLAN and INTO, who have been in extensive discussion with UK universities about taking over provision of courses in IT, vocational training and language teaching for overseas students.

UCU is concerned about the quality of education provided and the impact on the terms and conditions of the staff where private provision replaces that of the institution itself. Sally Hunt cites examples of private companies trying to recruit less-qualified staff for lower pay, the failure of universities to honour obligations to the funding council and the announcement of redundancies as part of a transfer of language courses to a private provider.

Ms Hunt asks what will happen if and when a private provider decides that the 'market' is not profitable enough. She says that she finds it difficult to understand why universities would not want to control their own destiny in this area.

UCU is committed to campaigning vigorously against the privatisation of higher education and Sally Hunt warns that the union will resist attempts to transfer academic departments or key university functions into private ownership.

Sally Hunt said: 'Our universities are a public good. The focus of higher education should be to provide a learning environment for students not an earning environment for privateers. The overseas student market is of vital importance to UK higher education. It is not an add-on to be hived off to the highest bidder.

'Reductions in the quality of preparation of non-UK students for degree study and in the quality of staff that provide this vital service will lead to a decline in the UK's reputation abroad as well as a reduction in the numbers who come to study here and I urge universities not to privatise.'
Last updated: 14 December 2015