All out for USS

It's not too late! Universities UK can still commit to meaningful negotiations over pensions and end the strike action.

Media digest: 30 October 2015

16 July 2015 | last updated: 10 December 2015

A look back at some of the week's news

FE strike still on

A strike in further education scheduled for Tuesday 10 November is going ahead, UCU confirmed today. UCU said that although there were no talks scheduled between now and the strike date, it remained keen to talk.

UCU told FE Week that although talks took place on Wednesday to discuss the Association of Colleges' offer of a pay freeze in 2015/16, a conclusion proved elusive and planning for the 10 November strike action would continue.

Prime Minister calls for change to university admissions

Writing in the Guardian on Monday, the Prime Minister announced that Ucas will make university applications 'name-blind' from 2017 in an attempt to tackle the risk of unconscious bias against black applicants.

UCU welcomed the move, but argued that university applications needed a complete overhaul with students applying to university after they receive their exam results. A report from UCU earlier this year revealed that seven in 10 staff involved with university applications backed a system which relied on actual achievement, rather than predicted results.

The union said an overhaul of the system would address the problem of inaccurate predicted grades and abolish the need for unconditional offers for university places, which are under increasing scrutiny.

Open University draws strength from regional tutors

Two letters in Tuesday's Guardian about the planned closure of seven regional centres at The Open University both mentioned the importance of the relationship between students and staff. Under the university's proposals over 500 staff are at risk of losing their job of facing redeployment.

A petition against the closures has already received over 5,600 signatures and Bassetlaw MP John Mann has tabled an early day motion in the House of Commons that opposes the closures.

Strike ballot at University of Manchester in jobs row

UCU members at the University of Manchester are to be balloted for strike action after the union accused managers of ignoring agreed procedures and pushing staff into redundancy. The ballot opens on Monday and closes on Friday 20 November.

Speaking to the Manchester Evening News, UCU regional official Martyn Moss said: 'Out of the blue, 37 people who thought they were safely on the books of the university suddenly face a redundancy process. The university ignored its own rules, when it shut down discussions with the trade unions and dramatically shifted the goalposts for these 37 staff.

Vince Cable warns that government's Prevent plans will lead to bland society

Former business secretary Vince Cable has warned that government efforts to curb extremism will lead to universities banning speakers such as Nigel Farage and Germaine Greer in efforts to demonstrate impartiality.

The Telegraph reported that the former Liberal Democrat MP warned that government's controversial Prevent agenda would lead to a society where bland and uncontroversial views prevail, killing debate.

UCU urges Scottish politicians to back better scrutiny of universities

UCU Scotland this week called for proper scrutiny of universities ahead of a debate on governance in Scottish institutions. UCU Scotland official, Mary Senior, said: 'The time has come for proper scrutiny of our universities and we strongly support measures in the higher education governance bill for elected chairs of governing bodies and student and trade union nominees sitting at the top table.'

UCU also told senior managers and university principals to stop carping from the sidelines and work with the rest of the sector in the interest of better governance of Scottish universities. Some universities and business representatives have warned against greater representation of students and staff on governing bodies.

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