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In the news: 2 December

Sally Hunt writes in THE on casualisation and HE's 'dirty little secret'

Sally Hunt this week called on universities to do more to combat casual contracts in higher education in the face of ever rising pay increase for vice-chancellors, describing institutions response and lack of self-awareness on the issue as 'damaging to the sector'.  Writing in Times Higher Education, Sally criticised the employer body UCEA for 'quibbling over statistics' rather than taking action to address insecure contracts.

Calling on more to be done by universities to combat the sector's dirty little secret following recent coverage in the Guardian, she went on to say that, 'Great teachers need proper support and students deserve to be taught by people who have time to focus on delivering high quality teaching and are not travelling between multiple jobs on different campuses.'

UCU responds to Ofsted FE report

Responding to the Ofsted annual report for further education and skills, published on Thursday, Sally Hunt said the report was right to question the effectiveness of area reviews and GCSE resits for English and maths.

Speaking to TES, Sally said; 'Further education colleges continue to provide a great education to students across the country. The report is right to question the scope and effectiveness of area reviews in improving local education for students. We understand that some recommendations are already being rejected, which suggests the exercise has been a significant waste of time and resources in some areas.'

On English and maths resits, Sally added: 'Colleges cater for many of the students who struggle most in these subjects, and repeated resits can be extremely demotivating for students. The government should heed these concerns and consider alternatives this unhelpful policy.'

Manchester Met decision to consult on closure of Crewe campus condemned as short sighted

UCU this week condemned the decision by Manchester Metropolitan University to consult on withdrawal from its Crewe campus as 'short sighted'.

UCU regional official Martyn Moss described the high level of uncertainty the decision had created for staff and students, telling the BBC that 'instead of considering withdrawal from the campus, the university should invest to strengthen its innovative educational offering.'

The Manchester Evening News cited a 1500-strong petition which calls on the university to 'commit to a sustainable future for higher education provision in Crewe'.

A Brexit deal for higher education?

Cambridge Professor of EU and employment law, Catherine Barnard, wrote in City AM outlining why universities would benefit from a bespoke deal in Brexit negotiations. Describing the close relationship of the sector with Europe, she outlined how a deal might include free movement for academic researchers and greater flexibility for migration of EU students.

Echoing Sally Hunt's recent call for the Prime Minister to 'show some humanity' and let EU staff and students stay, Bernard notes the importance of clarity on freedom of movement and tuition fee levels for EU citizens, saying: 'The risk that they might be reclassified as overseas students will deter applications from Eastern Europeans, for whom a doubling of fees may take up the family's annual income. Reports of a 41 per cent rise in race and religious hate crimes since the vote hasn't improved the UK's image.'

Lack of transparency on teacher training reforms

A change in how teacher training places are allocated is causing confusion at universities, according to a piece on education blog WonkHE this week.

Building on concerns raised by UCU over the government's planned reforms to teacher training, Stephanie Harris of Bath Spa University said that reforms needed extensive consultation and any quality assessments must be transparent. She questioned the government's approach of awarding multi-year allocations to some universities, saying: 'The lack of clarity has led to questions about whether government choices were based on perceptions of prestige rather than objective judgements of quality.'

Last updated: 2 December 2016