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In the news: 25 May

25 May 2018

Members of the USS Joint Expert Panel announced

The Joint Expert Panel (JEP) tasked with examining the valuation of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) is now complete. On Monday UCU confirmed that Professor Saul Jacka, Professor Deborah Mabbett and Associate Professor Catherine Donnelly were its choices for the panel.

Saul Jacka is a professor of statistics at the University of Warwick and a Turing fellow at the Alan Turing Institute. Deborah Mabbett is a professor of public policy at Birkbeck much of whose research has focussed on the relationship between the state and occupational or private pension schemes. Catherine Donnelly has worked as an advisor on pension scheme valuations and investment strategies for several pension consultancy firms and is currently an associate professor at Heriot-Watt University.

Universities UK (UUK) confirmed its choices yesterday. Ronnie Bowie is a partner at the pensions consultancy Hymans Robertson and chair of court at the University of Dundee. Sally Bridgeland is a non-executive director at the Local Pensions Partnership and a trustee of the Lloyds Bank pension scheme. Chris Curry is director of the Pensions Policy Institute. He was an economic adviser at the Department of Social Security and co-chaired the Department for Work and Pensions' automatic enrolment review advisory group.

The JEP was established as part of an agreement reached between UCU and UUK in March 2018. It is tasked with agreeing key principles to underpin the future approach to the scheme's valuation. It will be chaired by Joanne Segars OBE.


UCU members step up pay campaign in colleges

UCU members in further education stepped up their campaign for fair pay with strikes at five colleges this week. Staff walked out for three days at Lambeth, Westminster Kingsway and City & Islington. While staff at Lewisham & Southwark and Haringey, Enfield & North London were on strike for two days.

On Wednesday, strikers held a lobby outside the offices of the employers' representatives the Association of Colleges. While a strike at Bradford College was suspended after the college agreed to reopen its voluntary severance scheme and look again at redeployment options for staff.


Home Office under fire yet again for visa shambles

The Home Office is under fire yet again for its visa system. One academic told Times Higher Education that the opacity over unauthorised absences and strike action for international staff could contravene international law. She said she had been unable to risk joining colleagues on the picket line for the recent USS strikes for fear that her action would have been considered unauthorised absences, which could trigger the termination of visa sponsorship.

Meanwhile one of the University of Oxford's "brightest" new recruits has been forced to leave her post and return to China because she could not secure a visa for her baby. Fengying Liu, a postdoctoral researcher in pathology, was recruited to Oxford's Sir William Dunn School of Pathology in October last year. Citing the inflexibility of the British visa process and the unaffordable cost of a resubmission, Dr Liu said that she had no choice but to leave her new role and "give up hope" of working in the UK as a scientist.

Times Higher said her departure has been seen as another manifestation of the perceived hostility of the UK's immigration regime to foreign researchers and has fuelled elite universities' fears about their ability to recruit and retain the best international talent post-Brexit.


MP blasts college bosses for "vandalising education provision" in Cheshire

A Cheshire MP has accused Warrington and Weaver Vale College bosses of "vandalising further education provision in Northwich" following a meeting with education minister Anne Milton and regional UCU rep Roger Grigg. Weaver Vale MP Mike Amesbury has been a vocal opponent of plans by Warrington and Vale Royal College to close its Hartford campus since they were announced in March.

Amesbury told the Northwich Guardian: 'I made clear the financial pressures being applied to the further education sector by the government are having a devastating impact, but I also made it clear that - in my view - the principal and senior management of the college were on a trajectory to close and sell off Hartford campus following the merger, and that this has been nothing short of vandalism of the further education Sector in Northwich on the college leadership's part.'


UCU signs recognition deal with prison education provider

UCU has today signed a recognition deal with prison education provider PeoplePlus. The agreement includes a commitment from PeoplePlus to formally consult UCU about decisions which could have a major impact on jobs, and to inform the union about changes to working practices. UCU reps will also be entitled to time off for trade union activity.

The agreement means that UCU is now officially recognised by all prison education providers in England. Sally Hunt said: 'This agreement is a welcome step for prison education staff employed by PeoplePlus, and for industrial relations in the sector as a whole.'


ETUCE warns poor working conditions could damage Bologna Process

The European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE) was at the Paris Ministerial Conference this week warning that the future of the Bologna Process could be jeopardised by inadequate working conditions and the low status of teachers in higher education.
The ETUCE wants better protection for academic, greater public investment in higher education and research, improved job security and working conditions for staff and better recognition of teaching in higher education.

Last updated: 4 April 2019