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In the news: 15 June

Hackney and Tower Hamlets UCU agree pay deal with New City College

UCU this week struck a deal with New City College that will see at Hackney College and Tower Hamlets College staff receive £800 - a one-off payment of £400 with £400 added on to their pay. Hourly-paid staff at Hackney will also be moved onto the teachers' pay spine, bolstering their terms and conditions.

Speaking to TES and FEWeek, Sally Hunt said 'UCU members took action because they were fed up of being told once again that the cupboard was bare. In both these college groups, members have secured deals on pay and contracts as a result of the action they took. The Association of Colleges should take note. Staff will not put up with their pay being held down any longer and the AoC must bring a fair national deal to the negotiating table.'


UCU membership boosted by 16,000

TES covered UCU's rise in membership, describing how it had increased by 16% following 12 months of industrial action, seeing an overall rise across FE and HE of over 16,000.

Sally Hunt said the "remarkable" increase was a tribute to the hard work of everyone in the union, adding: 'It is also because of our radical new offer to those who are new to the profession in higher education or employed at the margins of teaching in further education. That offer shows we are a union for everyone - not an exclusive club for the most secure or the better paid'.


House of Lords report condemns education funding system

A report by the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee this week criticised the scrapping of maintenance grants and called for more to be done for part time students.

UCU welcomed the report and backed calls to provide better funding for further and higher education as well as concrete proposals such as scraping the 3 million apprenticeship target.

Speaking to inews, Sally welcomed an emphasis on further education, saying "now, more than ever, we must be able to offer decent opportunities for people to improve their skills, and to learn new ones. Part-time study and further education colleges will be central to that mission if it is to succeed."

Public Accounts Committee says higher education market 'letting students down'

A second report to come out of parliament looking at higher education this week also condemned the government's approach and accused it of 'letting students down'. Responding to the Public Accounts Committee report, Sally Hunt  said: 'The committee's report makes it clear that attempts to stimulate a market in higher education simply aren't working for students or taxpayers. The government's reforms have failed to improve student choice and too many prospective students still find themselves unable to access the learning and support they need. Instead of more tinkering around the edges of this broken system, it's time for a proper overhaul of how education is funded to ensure that everyone can fulfil their potential.'


Lecturer suicide a 'wake up call' for education sector

Times Higher Education continued its coverage of workload and the tragic suicide of Cardiff lecturer Malcolm Anderson with a piece highlighting the pressures that staff are placed under across the sector. Drawing comparison with the case of Stefan Grimm, who took his life in September 2014 after being told that he was "struggling to fulfil the metrics" at Imperial College, Jessica Gagnon from the University of Portsmouth said Dr Anderson's death should act as a similar "wake-up call for the entire education sector".

Writing in the Times Higher Education, Cardiff University research student Grace Krause described the growing mental health problems within the sector and the pressures that staff are under. Calling for more to be done to support staff and students, Ms Krause said: 'If we want to create a working environment that doesn't make people sick, we will have to fight for it, and the only way that we can possibly win this fight is by organising. The University and College Union has recently said that fighting excessive workloads is one of its main priorities and, after the pensions strike earlier this year during which the UCU gained 16,000 new members, it feels as though this is a fight that could be winnable'.


Ulster University grade inflation following USS strike

Ulster University was in the news this week following BBC coverage of UCU criticism of proposals to adjust marks in some courses that may have been affected by recent industrial action. Staff at Ulster questioned the fairness and equity in the methodology being used to increase marks and said it was incredible that the university thought it appropriate to impose a blanket solution on courses that had already been reviewed.


Reports of racist incidents at UK universities on the rise

Reports of racist incidents in UK universities are on the rise, with 129 alleged incidents reported in 2017, compared to 80 incidents in 2015 - a rise of 61%.

Speaking to the Independent, whose freedom of information data revealed the increase, Sally Hunt said: 'A number of shocking incidents have made headlines recently and while universities obviously must not tolerate this kind of behaviour, they need to be more proactive in stopping it. All universities must make it clear how staff and students can report any incidents and those that do make reports must be confident they will be properly supported.'


Hull College Group strikes off as agreement reached to avoid compulsory redundancies

Planned strikes at the Hull College Group, due to begin on Monday, have been suspended after the college management agreed to work with UCU on avoiding compulsory redundancies. The college and UCU issued a joint statement today committing to joint working to avoid compulsory job losses and lobby for more funding in FE. Responding to the news, UCU regional official Julie Kelley said: 'I am pleased that, following positive talks, we have been able to secure an agreement with the college management to work together to avoid compulsory redundancies. We will continue to engage constructively with the college with the aim of minimising the impact of the restructure on staff and students.'


Last updated: 15 June 2018