In the news: 24 June

24 June 2016

A look back at some of the week's news

Britain votes to leave the European Union

The British people have voted to leave the European Union. The Prime Minister has said he will resign in October and that it will be for the new PM to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which would give the UK two years to negotiate its withdrawal from the EU.

The higher education sector, many facets of which campaigned strongly for a Remain vote, has reacted to the verdict and the Independent collects a range of views here. A UCU spokesperson told the paper that education and the country is entering 'an uncharted and complicated period,' emphasising the need to 'remain outward-looking and demonstrate we are open to the brightest and the best from around the world.'

The spokesperson added: 'During the campaign, universities rightly highlighted the important role the EU plays in funding higher education and skills minister, Nick Boles, expressed concerns the apprenticeship levy may have to be postponed in the event of a leave vote. The Government needs to clearly set out how it plans to ensure sustainable funding for further and higher education now and in the future.'

 

Strikes across UK universities as escalated action continues

Universities across the UK were hit with strike action this week as UCU's escalated industrial action in a row with universities over pay continued. There were alternative open days in Sheffield, Liverpool and Coventry and members at Reading boycotted the university's 90th birthday shindig.

Leeds UCU made a few alterations to the signage around campus ahead of their open day and members walked out at institutions from the west of Scotland to the south east of England. There are more strikes today and through next week with 36 branches due to walk out on Thursday alone. Follow Twitter for live updates.

 

Government figures reveal an 11% drop in adults studying further education

The number of people aged 19 and above studying in further education fell by 11% between 2013/14 and 2014/15, according to government statistics released yesterday. UCU said the sharp fall in the number of adults participating in further education was a result of successive cuts to funding and highlighted a clear need for greater investment.

The union was responding to the latest statistical release from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), which showed that overall participation in adult further education and skills fell by 315,900 (10.8%) between 2013/14 and 2014/15. UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, told TES that the figures were extremely worrying, and highlight the damage which years of funding cuts have done to further education. 

'The government's vaunted expansion in apprenticeships is a drop in the ocean compared to the huge falls elsewhere. Ministers need to widen their focus and ensure proper support for different kinds of learning. Without more investment in a full range of education, this downward trend in participation is likely to continue, and thousands more will miss out on important opportunities to improve their skills and life chances', she said.

 

Progress over redundancy proposals at Cleveland College of Art and Design

There was a rapid breakthrough in a dispute over redundancies at Cleveland College of Art and Design on Wednesday. Staff were concerned earlier this week to learn that they had just days to submit their interest in a new role, or risk being made compulsorily redundant.

However, UCU met with college managers on Wednesday who agreed to extend the consultation process and postpone the deadline for staff to express interest in new posts within the restructure.

UCU regional support official, Jon Bryan, said: 'We are pleased the meeting addressed the serious concerns staff had about the college's proposals. We welcome the college's commitment to working with us to try and avoid any compulsory redundancies.'

 

UCU welcomes University of Northumbria's decision to postpone controversial PhD teaching plans

There was similarly speedy progress up the road at the University of Northumbria when the university announced it was postponing plans to force postgraduate students to teach as a condition of their research stipend.

UCU had condemned the proposal to make PhD students in receipt of a £14,296 stipend to support their studies teach up to 180 hours per year without additional payment as 'grossly exploitative'.

UCU regional official, Iain Owens, said: 'Expecting research students to deliver over five weeks' worth of teaching, on top of their full-time research practice for no extra reward, would have been grossly exploitative and we are pleased they have postponed the move by a year and will consult with us over any new proposals.'

 

Union calls for halt to loss of 150 jobs at University of Leicester

UCU has urged the University of Leicester to halt plans to cut around 150 jobs, and reverse its decision to close the university's lifelong learning centre. The university has announced the job losses and centre closure as part of a restructure designed to reduce staff costs by 4.5%, citing a loss of income from overseas student fees as the main reason for the cuts.

A UCU spokesperson told the Leicester Mercury: 'We are opposed to any job losses and wish the university to look at other ways to make savings. The loss of the Vaughan Centre is also hugely disappointing, not just for staff but for all those students benefiting from courses. This is very worrying time for all staff who are naturally concerned for their employment security.'

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