Newcastle UCU members protest over privatisation on campus

2 February 2007 | last updated: 14 December 2015

Members of the Newcastle UCU today led a protest against the privatisation of a university language school.

Academics were selling toilet paper degrees to students for a penny in protest at the university's planned joint venture with the firm INTO University Partnerships Ltd to run English language courses for international students.

Newcastle UCU is now considering balloting its members to take industrial action over the behaviour of the university. The university was reported this week as saying it was 'done deal', despite not going through the proper channels of communication with the union.

The peaceful protest outside a building where representatives from INTO and the university were meeting was well-supported by local union members and students. No representatives from either INTO or the university would come out to meet the protestors, but they did take the completely unnecessary step of calling security to ensure protestors could not storm the building.

In a message of support to staff at Newcastle today, UCU joint general secretary, Sally Hunt said: 'This privatisation threatens both the quality of educational provision and the pay and conditions of university staff. INTO and others like them should be in little doubt that they are not welcomed by the vast majority of those who work in higher education.

'The university in its refusal to negotiate seriously with UCU on the transfer has broken its own agreements in its haste to bring INTO onto campus. Universities should be places of learning, not earning, and UCU pledges our full support to members at Newcastle and every where else where key university functions are threatened by privatisation.'

Sally Hunt, wrote to Drummond Bone, the President of the universities' umbrella group, Universities UK, earlier this week opposing increasing levels of private sector involvement in key university functions. She cited INTO trying to recruit less-qualified staff for lower pay at the University of East Anglia as an example that staff terms and conditions and the quality of course were clearly not the company's top priorities.

As well as the deal at East Anglia, INTO is looking to push ahead with deals at other universities across the country. UCU members at Oxford Brookes are currently fighting similar plans for the takeover of their International Centre for English Language Studies.

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