In the news: 4 May 2018

4 May 2018

Staff overwhelmingly back strike action at Bradford College

UCU members at Bradford College have overwhelmingly backing to strike action in a dispute over plans to cut jobs and change contracts. Eight-eight per cent of members who voted backed strike action on a turnout of 61 per cent.

The union said that if the college refused to engage then it would announce strike dates. Bradford College has announced plans to cut 75 jobs as part of an effort to tackle a funding deficit after the college was issued with a financial notice to improve in March.

UCU regional official Julie Kelley told Tes: 'Bradford College can be in no doubt about how angry their staff are at plans to cut jobs. We hope the colleges will respond positively to this strong mandate for action and work with us to resolve matters without the need for disruption.'

Strikes dates announced at Lewisham Southwark College

UCU members at Lewisham Southwark College will be on strike later this month in a row over pay. The union announced today that staff will walk out on Tuesday 22 and Wednesday 23 May unless the college addresses their concerns over falling pay.

The college is part of NCG who have refused to implement a national pay deal of just 1%. NCG are based in Newcastle and have removed the London weighting allowance for staff based at Lewisham Southwark College. In the recent ballot 93% of members who voted backed strikes.

UCU regional support official, Jon Bryan, said: 'Staff at Lewisham Southwark College have seen their pay held down for years and they have had enough. Strike action is always a last resort, but staff clearly feel they have been left with no alternative.'

Home office's hostile environment for international students

Although Amber Rudd finally resigned on Sunday evening, the problems related to the hostile environment created while Theresa May was home secretary show little sign of going away. As Sajid Javid took over at the Home Office, the Financial Times revealed that as many as 7,000 international students may have been incorrectly accused of faking their proficiency in English and ordered to leave the country, with some of them saying they were detained and made homeless as a result.

Looking at the appointment of Javid, THE's John Morgan said he had little time for higher education when business secretary, but was thought to be behind the move to axe maintenance grants. Although holding a view similar to many others in cabinet on the need to remove international students from migration figures, Morgan points out that Javid spoke strongly in favour of international students leaving the country once they had finished studying.

Universities minister on unconditional offers and free speech

Elsewhere in Westminster, universities minister Sam Gyimah started the week saying he feared students were flunking exams because of a sharp rise in unconditional offers. While UK universities made just a few hundred unconditional offers in the years to 2012, the number of unconditional offers rose to 2,985 in 2013-14, 36,825 in 2014-15 and 51,615 last year - a rise of more than 1,600% over five years. 

Speaking to Huff Post, a UCU spokesperson said the quickest and simplest way to resolve the issue of unconditional offers was for the UK to join the rest of the world and establish a system where students apply to university after they receive their results.

Yesterday Gyimah said the UK's complex tangle of regulations governing free speech on university campuses should be replaced by one clear set of guidelines for both students and institutions. The Guardian said the minister wanted to create the first new set of guidelines since the free speech duty was first introduced in 1986. However, the move met with criticism from universities, students and opposition MPs.

BBC uncovers YouTubers promoting cheat websites

YouTube stars are being paid to sell academic cheating, according to a BBC investigation. More than 250 channels are promoting EduBirdie, based in Ukraine, which allows students to buy essays, rather than doing the work themselves.

The BBC uncovered more than 1,400 videos with a total of more than 700 million views containing EduBirdie adverts selling cheating to students and school pupils. EduBirdie is based in Ukraine, but aims its services at pupils and students across the globe.

Last updated: 4 May 2018