Covid-19 (coronavirus): UCU has produced advice for members. Find more information and updates here.

In the news: 24 March 2017

Further drop in teacher training numbers 'cause for concern'

UCAS figures this week revealed that the number of trainee teachers dropped by 7% in 2016, making it the fifth year in a row that recruitment targets have been missed according to the BBC. Responding, UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said universities had a long record of successful teacher training, but warned that 'their efforts are being frustrated by the government's plans to expand other teacher training programmes which have poorer recruitment records.'

She added: 'At a time of teacher shortages, instead of further fragmentation we need a clear and accessible system of teacher education which is highly regarded and simple for potential trainees to navigate. We also need a clear commitment to professional development for teachers throughout their working life to ensure that teaching remains an attractive and respected career option.'

Two-year degrees under fire as higher education bill debate delayed

Writing for Times Higher, lecturer and writer Shahidha Bari warned this week that two-year degrees being promoted by Jo Johnson would leave little time for intellectual inquiry and percolation of ideas. Bari reflected UCU's concerns that fast-track degrees would be a boon for private providers who would 'siphon off students by offering speedier and cheaper alternatives to the conventional degree', adding 'the only way such a system could be operable is with more teaching-only and temporary contracts - which generally exploit and overwork early career staff.'

Following Wednesday's terrorist attack in Westminster, the debate on the higher education and research bill was delayed. It will now take place on Tuesday 4 April - read UCU's latest briefing on the UCU policy hub.

Staff force meeting at University of Warwick over employment rights

Staff at the University of Warwick forced a rare emergency meeting of academics this week over concerns that the university is trying to erode employment rights and academic freedom.  The Coventry Telegraph reported that the planned changes would make it easier for staff to be made redundant. UCU branch president Justine Mercer told the Birmingham Mail that the plans were a 'race to the bottom' by the university, adding: 'we want to know why it fears proper accountability and staff security and why the vice-chancellor would be the only staff member immune from the changes.'

University of Brighton staff to strike over demotions and redundancies

Plans to downgrade staff, withhold promotions and make other staff redundant while ignoring agreed procedures at the University of Brighton have led staff to call a half-day walkout next Friday (31 March). UCU regional official Michael Moran told Brighton and Hove News and the Eastbourne Herald that by 'repeatedly ignoring agreed procedures, the university has shown a blatant disregard for its employees and the union which represents them.' A further two days of action are planned for 26 and 27 April if no resolution is reached in the coming weeks.

Staff threaten strike ballot over statute changes at University of Leeds

Staff at the University of Leeds have threatened to ballot for industrial action as part of an ongoing row over changes to statutes. The university plans to introduce a new dismissal clause which the union says would threaten academic freedom and freedom of speech. UCU branch president, Tim Goodall, said: 'Senior management has argued that 'Some Other Substantial Reason' is grounds for dismissal in employment law, but they have also exempted the vice-chancellor, deans and the HR director from statute, which seems hypocritical.  The grounds for dismissal contained in the statutes are a threat to academic freedom at the university and we are calling for them to be dropped.'

Last updated: 24 March 2017