Strike action in higher education

In the news this week: 11 March 2016

11 March 2016

A look back at some of the week's news

Gender pay gap report

UCU's report on the gender pay gap in FE and HE, launched to coincide with International Women's Day, gained widespread coverage in local and national press with interviews from UCU representatives on television and radio across the country.

In the Telegraph, Sally Hunt called for a 'firm commitment from sector leaders to close the gap' in gender pay and to make equal pay at every college and university a reality.

Describing the current levels of pay inequality at universities and colleges as 'shameful' Sally told Times Higher Education and TES, 'It's nearly 50 years since the Equal Pay Act came into force and they're still flying in the face of it'.

In its coverage of the report, FE Week outlined responses from some of the college's that were named and shamed, one of which tried to justify the high proportion of female teaching staff on hourly paid contracts by describing them as 'attractive to women'.

In Scotland, where one university had a pay gap of over £18k, UCU official Mary Senior told the Herald and BBC online that universities should not have allowed such shameful levels of pay inequality to persist.

Rhoda Grant, MSP for the Highlands and Islands, told the Press and Journal that she was 'appalled' at the findings, saying "To have any gender pay gap in this day and age is shocking. I assumed that most of the public sector had its house in order with equal pay. Clearly they don't'.

The report was also covered by regional press that focused on local colleges and universities across the UK.

UCU welcomes passing of HE Governance Bill

UCU Scotland this week welcomed the passing of the Higher Education Governance (Scotland) Bill in the Scottish Parliament.  The vote by MSPs reforms the way universities are governed in Scotland ensuring that they will become more democratic by allowing all staff and students to vote for the chair of their governing body.

Speaking to the BBC, Herald newspaper and Holyrood magazine, University and College Union (UCU) Scotland official Mary Senior, said ''We welcome the passing of this important bill.  Reforming university governance and making our universities more democratic, transparent and accountable is something that UCU has campaigned for over many years.  These changes will reconnect the way universities are run with those most affected by decisions - the staff and students - and allow our universities to remain the world leading institutions they are'.

Writing in the Herald, UCU Scotland President Douglas Chalmers, said 'elections by staff and students of chairs of court, representation of trade unions on the courts, and the expansion of academic freedom is all to be welcomed'.

Guardian online debate on gender equality in HE

UCU's head of bargaining and negotiations, Michael MacNeil, took part in an online Guardian debate on gender equality in higher education as part of International Women's Day. Describing the progress made by some universities as 'glacial' Michael answered a variety of questions and queries relating to equality in the higher education sector.

UCU response to privatisation plans for higher education sector

UCU responded to reports in the press this week that the government is planning to introduce a higher education bill in May's Queens Speech, calling for assurances that, as in Wales, no public money will be used to fund the expansion of the English for-profit education sector.

According to the Financial Times [£], the new legislation may make access to funds easier for private providers and increase the role of for-profit providers in the sector.

Sally Hunt said that taxpayers and students had already been ripped off for hundreds of millions of pounds by the previous expansion under the coalition government adding 'It would be a scandal if, after all the warnings the government has received on this issue, taxpayers' money currently being used to support public universities was switched to the for-profit sector'.

UCU on proposed closure of University of Brighton's Hastings campus

UCU has vowed to fight the closure of the University of Brighton's Hastings campus, following the statement this week by university leaders.

UCU regional official, Michael Moran, told the Hastings Observer, 'We suspect that there will be attempts at course closures and redundancies but UCU and the Hastings community will resist them. What does seem clear amongst all the uncertainty is that this statement does not spell out a solid and secure future for university education in Hastings'.

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