In the news: 15 July 2016

A look back at some of the week's news

UCU calls for Higher Education Bill to be scrapped

Following the news yesterday that the universities and skills briefs would go back to the department of education under new secretary of state Justine Greening, UCU said the government had to scrap the Higher Education and Research Bill, due to receive its second reading on Tuesday.

The Independent said changes to government departments, cabinet appointments, and the Brexit result had prompted UCU to call plans to continue to push the bill through Parliament "absurd."

Writing in the Guardian, UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said the implications of the Brexit vote on universities should have already been enough to halt proceedings.

She said: 'The bill was conceived in a pre-Brexit world and, whatever its merits or otherwise, its significance for higher education is dwarfed by the implications of the UK leaving the EU. Now the universities and skills brief has been moved into a different government department it is time to put the bill to one side.'

 

Four things that must happen to protect higher education after Brexit

Writing in Times Higher Education earlier this week, Sally Hunt set out four things that the government needs to do now.

First, we need a commitment that those EU nationals who are here now can stay. Their economic contribution is enormous and any other message - such as the idea that they could be used as bargaining chips in the Brexit negotiations - will damage the UK's reputation.

Second, we must quickly establish the potential loss of research, social fund and fee income arising from Brexit and make sure our universities have sufficient public funding to continue to compete with the world's best.

Third, we need the government to drop its now irrelevant higher education bill and instead call an immediate nonpartisan inquiry into how we can ensure our colleges and universities remain open to staff and students from around the world.

Fourth, we need politicians and the press to recognise their responsibilities.  Blaming immigration is an old game of course but in a climate where almost all politicians seem to be frightened of outlining its benefits, we risk damaging our society beyond repair.

 

UCU response to Ofsted report on the Prevent duty in further education

UCU said on Tuesday that vague definitions and inconsistent advice have made it hard for colleges to understand the government's controversial anti-extremism guidance and protect open discussion and academic freedom.

The union was responding to a report from Ofsted that criticised colleges' efforts in implementing the duty, saying many saw it simply as a tick-box exercise. Responding to the report Sally Hunt said: 'UCU has consistently warned that the Prevent duty risks doing more harm than good by shutting down debate on contentious topics and creating mistrust between teachers and students. College teachers have always taken their duty of care to students very seriously, so the focus on implementing the Prevent duty is both unnecessary and potentially counterproductive.

She told the BBC that the government's "vague definitions of British values and local authorities" inconsistent advice have offered little help to providers struggling to understand the duty while still protecting open discussion and academic freedom.'

 

Strikes from the south-west to the north-east this week in the higher education pay dispute

Ten institutions took action this week with Edge Hill and Exeter kicking things off on Monday. Open University, Rose Burford College, Arts University Bournemouth and Keele University were out on Tuesday, while Roehampton University and the University of Teesside walked out on Wednesday.

Canterbury Christ Church University ran a Bastille Day themed strike yesterday and members at Swansea University are out today. Next week members at Liverpool Hope University, St Mary's University and the University of East London are taking action.

Last updated: 15 July 2016

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