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Week in news: 20 January 2017

20 January 2017

No evidence that new providers are fit for purpose

The Higher Education and Research Bill was debated for another two days in the House of Lords this week and ahead Monday's debate, Gill Evans, Emeritus Professor of Medieval Theology and Intellectual History at the University of Cambridge, set out her concerns.

Writing for the Telegraph, she highlighted the lack of evidence that new providers of higher education are high quality or will be subject to proper checks and balances. In a swipe at minister Jo Johnson's bizarre analogy that universities are trying to prevent new providers entering the sector, she asks him to do some homework before making any more claims in the press which he seems unable to back up with evidence. She concludes that there is plenty of evidence out there, but it points another way. 


New staff data reveals lack of senior black staff

Figures released yesterday revealed that no black academics worked in senior management in any UK university for the last three years. Of the 535 senior officials who declared their ethnicity, 510 were white, 15 were Asian and 10 were recorded as "other including mixed". In 2015-16 universities employed more black staff as cleaners, receptionists or porters than as lecturers or professors.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: 'We want universities to take decisive action to stop this terrible waste of talent. They need to examine the reasons why black and minority ethnic staff stop climbing the career ladder, and develop new, effective strategies to support them to reach the top.'

UCU has previously highlighted the lack of BME and women professors.


Where will the brain drain head to?

The Australian this week asked if Australia could be the beneficiary of brain drains from both the US and the UK in the light of President Trump's presidency and Brexit. Phil Baty from Times Higher Education told the paper that he thought some level of brain drain from the US could be anticipated in the wake of the Trump presidency. 'The general climate of anti-intellectualism he fostered, characterised by attacks on politically correct colleges, his refusal to accept the consensus around climate change, for example, and his open hostility towards Muslims and foreigners are anathema to many in American higher education,' he said.

The paper highlighted UCU's recent survey of academics in the wake of Brexit and Simon Marginson, professor of international higher education at the Institute of Education, said he did not expect the spike in interest from the US to translate into a mass movement of academics to Australia. 'High-quality people are unlikely to leave US," he said. 'They'll grumble but mostly stay put, with some heading for Canada. However, Australia is always an option for Brits. It is too early to say much about Brexit but my impression is that it is going to be massively disruptive to higher education sector.'


Stressed staff looking to leave Northumbria University

Half of staff at Northumbria University said they were stressed and the same number said they would seek new work within the year, while two-thirds were worried about their job security. Although the university refused to publish the results of the survey publicly, UCU said the results were "stark but not surprising".

Julia Charlton, chair of the Northumbria UCU branch, said: 'The atmosphere has definitely deteriorated. We have a staff survey every two years, and since 2008 the numbers of people saying they're looking for new jobs, or they don't trust the hierarchy, are getting worse and worse. Clearly the staff are not happy, they are not feeling valued, they are not feeling included.'

Last updated: 31 January 2017