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In the news: 4 November

Further sector must come together to make the case for investment

Writing in today's TES, UCU head of further education, Andrew Harden, said the further education sector needs to work together to make the case for significant investment, and for a workforce strategy that helps to ensure FE teachers are valued and want to remain in their jobs.

Demonstrating how further education can tackle social inequality and help people realise their potential, he highlighted case studies in a new UCU project, which demonstrate the transformative power of education for people and their communities.

He said last year's #loveFE campaign, supported by organisations and trade unions across the sector, helped to stave off anticipated cuts to 16-19 and adult learning funding in the November Budget and demonstrated what can happen when the sector speaks with one voice.

He concludes by saying that the sector needs to harness that same energy to make the case for investment to support FE to meet growing skills demands. He says that no matter what Brexit really means, if the UK is to find its feet outside the EU, it must position FE and its transformative potential at the heart of this country's continued success.


Strike ballot at University of Aberdeen in row over job losses

UCU members at the University of Aberdeen are being balloted for strike action in a row over job losses. The row centres on planned cuts that have resulted in 15 members of staff in the school of medicine, medical science and nutrition being told they are at risk of redundancy. The ballot closes on Monday 21 November.

STV reported that more than £8.6m worth of cuts have already been made at the institution. While the Evening Express says UCU has accused the university of breaking a promise about taking on new staff.

Aberdeen UCU representative, Derek Dawson, said: 'Nobody wants to take industrial action, but UCU members at Aberdeen feel they have no choice. The university has already made considerable savings and it has broken a promise to freeze recruitment in an effort to mitigate the need for job losses. We believe getting rid of experienced and dedicated staff will do nothing for Aberdeen's reputation.'


UCU says government needs to invest in English classes

More investment in English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) courses is needed if the government is to achieve its aims for integration and social cohesion, UCU said today. The union was responding to an announcement by immigration minister, Robert Goodwill, who that said people wishing to remain in the UK on a long-term family visa will now be required to undertake a more rigorous English language test.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'Learning English is a crucial step for anyone trying to integrate into UK society. However, the government has more than halved the ESOL budget in recent years. If ministers really want to achieve better integration and social cohesion, they need to invest properly in ESOL and ensure that all who want to learn English can do so.'


UK warned of brain drain if it exits EU research programmes

UK universities could lose leading research talent to rival European institutions in the wake of Brexit, reported Times Higher Education yesterday, with Germany, the Netherlands and the Republic of Ireland among potential beneficiaries.

The magazine said that because there is still no certainty as to whether the UK will remain inside the European Union's research programmes post-Brexit by securing associated country status for research, UK-based researchers could be unable to take part in future EU international research collaborations.


Tory MP rebuked on Twitter for claims academics have no experience of real world

Conservative MP for Montgomeryshire, Glyn Davies, took to Twitter over the weekend to proclaim that he did not consider academics experts, and that they had "no experience of the real world". The rebukes were swift with the hashtag #realworldacademic being used to counter his accusations.

Davies, who claimed £185,000 in expenses in 2015, was taken to task for his lack of real world experience and ignorance of what academics do.


Universities accused of hypocrisy over tuition fee and pay rises

In a letter to Times Higher Education this week, Michael Otsuka, professor of philosophy at London School of Economics, says that when defending its offer of a 1.1 per cent inflationary pay increase (around the same rate as the consumer price index, CPI), the universities' employers' representatives rejected the retail price index (RPI) as a statistically unsound measure of inflation.

But in its defence of an increase in tuition fees from £9,000 to £9,250, the employers claimed that RPI was justified on grounds that it is limited strictly to an inflationary rise of 2.8 per cent in 2017-18, thereby maintaining the income that universities receive in real terms. He argues the employers cannot have it both ways.


Last updated: 4 November 2016