UCU launches 'lobby a Lord' campaign ahead of HE bill debate

2 December 2016 | last updated: 9 December 2016

UCU has launched its 'lobby a Lord' campaign to encourage its members to contact peers linked to their university ahead of Tuesday's second reading of the controversial Higher Education and Research Bill in the House of Lords.

The union has created a list of peers who have a relationship with a UK university and is urging its members to set out UCU's objections to the bill. The union says the bill could open the floodgate for for-profit universities and its plans for a Teaching Excellence Framework (Tef) will see higher fees, but no guarantees of teaching excellence or proper support for staff.

Government adviser Baroness Alison Wolf has warned that the reforms could lead to an 'American-style catastrophe' and the union says the recent controversy over Trump University highlights the harm a lack of regulation can cause.

The union says it also wants to see guarantees that EU staff will be allowed to remain in the UK and greater efforts to tackle the blight of insecure contracts at universities.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'The UK is home to some of the world's best universities and higher education is one of our most successful exports. No system is perfect, but this bill will seriously weaken our sector. We hope members will take the time to contact a peer linked to their university through our easy to use Lord lobbying tool.

'We must not allow the UK university brand to be diluted by poor-quality for-profit universities. Students must also be protected from the possibility of a new provider failing and leaving them with nowhere to complete their studies, or ending up with a worthless qualification.

'The proposed metrics of student satisfaction, student retention and graduate employment outcomes for the controversial Tef don't really measure teaching quality at all. Crude statistics hide the fact that a range of factors - including a student's background and the difficulty of the course - have a bigger impact on these areas. Yet university fees will be allowed to rise on the basis of these spurious outcomes.

'If the government really wants to improve teaching quality, it needs to think instead about whether staff are supported to deliver their best teaching. A recent UCU analysis revealed that as many as 53% of staff are employed on insecure contracts. Many lecturers struggle to make ends meet and deliver the extra out-of-hours support students need.'

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