In the news 11 November 2016

Dump pointless Tef metrics and take a hard look at casualisation, says Sally Hunt

Writing for the Guardian this week, UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said the metrics being used for the Teaching Excellence Framework (Tef) won't actually tell us anything about teaching quality or how we could improve things.

She argues that a "future employment" metric will only tell us that a graduate's chances of landing a decent job are heavily shaped by things such as social class, ethnicity, geographical location, institutional reputation and subject choice. Hardly revelatory. 

She says one aspect of university life that has been ignored by the Tef thus far is the issue of casualisation. Even though there is now a large body of research in the US, over a 20-year period, that shows it has a clear impact on teaching quality.

She says that, while insecure working practices now permeate every section of our society, many students probably don't realise they are taught at some point, perhaps even for majority of their time at university, by people on insecure casual contracts.

She concludes by suggesting that if the government truly cared about teaching quality, it would spend less time forging ahead with its controversial higher education bill - complete with a Tef built on unreliable metrics - and more time looking at the way universities treat their insecure staff.

 

Further education sector must come together to make the case for investment

Writing for chief-exec.com, UCU head of further education, Andrew Harden, said the further education sector needs to work together to make the case for significant investment, and for a workforce strategy that helps to ensure FE teachers are valued and want to remain in their jobs.

Demonstrating how further education can tackle social inequality and help people realise their potential, he highlighted case studies in a new UCU project, which demonstrate the transformative power of education for people and their communities.

 

The impact of Trump 

Donald Trump's shock victory is US presidential race dominated the news this week as commentators tried to explain once again why the pollsters called the result wrong. Times Higher Education's live blog collected the views of many in the higher education sector, including academics working in political science.

It also carried pieces looking at the implications for foreign students considering both the US and UK in the light of Trump's victory and our own vote to leave the EU, and what a Trump presidency might mean for US higher education.

The New York Post reported that the impact of the Trump triumph was already being felt on some campuses. It suggested that students, devastated by the result of the election, were begging lecturers to cancel classes and midterm exams, with one Yale professor obliging. The unnamed educator said he chose to give his economics class the option to skip their test so they could cope with the fact that Donald Trump is president-elect.

While the BBC reported protests around the country in the wake of the shock victory.

 

Glass ceilings need shattering in the US and closer to home

While much of the world's attention was focused on Hilary Clinton's efforts to "shatter the highest and hardest glass ceiling" in America, there were reminders closer to home of the gender pay gap women still suffer in the workplace.

Yesterday was #EqualPayDay in the UK, the day when women effectively stop getting paid for the year compared to men due to 13.9% gender pay gap. UCU urged people to check whether or not their university paid staff fairly via its data tool.

On Monday, French women were urged to walk out of their offices at 4:34pm in their call for equal pay. In France, the gap between men and women's average hourly wage is 15.1% which means a woman will work 38.2 days more than a man for the same salary. 

 

Why the student loan system is illegal

Writing in the Independent, a former City lawyer who now campaigns for fairer student loans, argues that were the student loan system tested in court it would be deemed illegal, and it is a disgrace that a £45,000 government loan would cost £115,857.00 in charges alone to a graduate earning £25,000.

She says that under the Conservative government, extortive funding costs and unfair terms are forced upon students in unknown "agreements" which break the law. If students ask to negotiate, they meet a brick wall.

 

Last updated: 11 November 2016