In the news: 9 June 2017

UCU praises effort of university and college staff to get young people voting

Commenting on the general election result, UCU said it was delighted to see an increase in turnout of young people, and that the votes of university and college staff and their students looked like they had been crucial in many of the surprise results across the UK.   

The union said that the next government must prioritise investment in further and higher education and act swiftly to end the uncertainty over the position of EU nationals who make up a substantial part of the UK's education and health workforce. The TES reported that UCU was not alone in saying the result had left the further education sector in limbo. While FE Week focused on the impact of the youth vote.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: 'The next government must guarantee the rights of EU citizens currently in the UK, including thousands of university and college staff and students who contribute so much to our economy and society. A number of seats in towns and cities with universities and colleges changing hands, which is a vindication of all those, including UCU, who worked so hard to encourage young people to register to vote, and to vote for the first time.'

Over a quarter of teaching workforce in further education on insecure contracts

Over a quarter (28%) of the teaching workforce in further education are employed on insecure precarious contracts with the majority of them (69%) on hourly-paid contracts, according to a new report released by UCU today.

The report also warns, as TES reports, that a "shadow further education sector" is springing up as colleges turn to wholly-owned subsidiary companies to hire teachers on inferior terms and conditions.

Sally Hunt said: 'Research has shown that poor working conditions for staff mean poor learning conditions for students. The easy hire and fire culture that comes with precarious contracts and farming out teaching to subsidiary companies is a false economy that weakens colleges.'

EU academic "brain drain" from UK universities

More than 1,300 academics from the European Union have left British universities in the past year, prompting concerns of a Brexit brain drain, warned the Observer on Sunday. The paper reported a 30% rise in departures of EU staff in just two years, according to data released by universities under the Freedom of Information Act.

Sally Hunt said: 'These findings are worrying and highlight how damaging the government's refusal to guarantee the rights of EU staff can be. Theresa May may wish to style herself as the strong and stable candidate, but she is creating dangerous insecurity in our universities. By its very nature, higher education is international, and the exchange of knowledge across borders is critical to its success. If we are to preserve our global reputation for excellence, our universities must be unencumbered when it comes to attracting and retaining overseas staff and students.'

Teaching qualifications in further education

Writing in defence of further education teachers needing to have a teaching qualification for FE Week, Sally Hunt says the next government's approach to professionalism shouldn't stop with a formal qualification.

She argues that in a fast-changing skills landscape, it's vital that teachers are supported to refresh their skills and share knowledge throughout their careers, so they can remain at the cutting edge of both industrial innovation and pedagogical developments.

Bournemouth election candidate slammed for suggesting academic support

The Bournemouth Echo reported how one shameless candidate for the Bournemouth West seat in yesterday's general election used university branding in his campaign leaflets despite it being made quite clear that neither of the town's universities support him.

The leaflet featured a picture of Conservative candidate Conor Burns standing at a Bournemouth University-branded lectern and both Bournemouth University's and the Arts University Bournemouth's logos with the words: "Re-elect Conor Burns, BU and AUB's strong local voice".

Incredibly, Mr Burns said any suggestions that his leaflet suggested an endorsement from either university were "utter nonsense". John Brissenden, UCU campaigns officer at Bournemouth University, said: 'Any reasonable person might assume from this leaflet that Bournemouth University has endorsed Conor Burns' election campaign, or even that he is on the staff of the university.' Despite a 18.5% increase in the Labour vote, Burns was reelected MP for Bournemouth West.

Professors oppose Manchester University jobs cuts

Nearly 200 professors at Manchester University have signed a letter expressing no confidence in the institution's management after it set out plans to axe 171 jobs. In the letter, seen by the Guardian and Manchester Evening News, to Edward Astle, the chair of the university's board of governors, the academics accused the institution's senior leadership team of acting in "an ill-considered and unjustified way".

"[We] and a substantial number of other academics have no confidence in senior management," states the letter, signed by 174 of Manchester's current professors and 24 emeritus professors.

"We have all invested significantly in our university and are concerned about the significant damage to internal staff morale and external reputation, which will follow inevitably if the board does not restrain the management."

Blackpool and The Fylde College jobs risk

UCU said yesterday that students and staff should not pay the price for cutbacks at Blackpool and The Fylde College which have hit several courses and put 16 posts at risk of redundancy. The College says the cuts are part of a business review.

UCU regional official Martyn Moss told the Blackpool Gazette that: 'Notwithstanding continued funding challenges to further education, UCU is scrutinising the basis for these proposed job cuts and is working with the college to explore alternative strategies to mitigate the impact on staff and avoid compulsory redundancies. UCU does not accept experienced staff should bear the brunt of these cuts by losing their jobs.'

Last updated: 4 April 2019