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In the news: 15 April 2016

UCU exposes 'endemic' use of insecure contracts in colleges and universities

As part of the ongoing campaign against insecure contracts across the sector, UCU published two reports this week looking at the endemic use in both further and higher education.

The research found that in universities 54% of all academic staff, and 49% of teaching staff are employed on insecure contracts, whilst in further education colleges around 34% of teaching staff are on similar contracts.

Sally Hunt told Times Higher Education that 'Nearly half of university teaching staff are on insecure contracts - a scenario that is sure to shock university students and is far worse than universities will own up to'.

Calling on further education colleges to conduct a joint review of all non-permanent staff Sally spoke to TES and urged the government to 'pay greater attention to how the sector employs its staff and regulate it accordingly'.

The worst offending universities in Scotland were highlighted by the Herald, who was told by national official Mary Senior, 'We need universities to engage in better workforce planning that gives staff stable jobs. Such a huge proportion of insecure contracts will potentially undermine future high-quality teaching in Scottish universities'.


Institute for Fiscal Studies' report on impact of family background on future graduate earnings

Responding to a report published by the Institute of Fiscal Studies showing the unfair impact of social background on graduate earnings, UCU said that the research showed the need for radical action to reform university admissions.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'The report is a wake-up call for policy makers and employers, who must do more to level the playing field and ensure that future generations of students are not hindered by social background or by which institution they attended. Improving careers advice and introducing a fairer system of university admissions are key steps towards reducing these persistent inequalities at graduate level.'

The report's findings on the gender pay gap echoed research for UCU's Rate for the Job online tool, which illustrates huge pay differences for staff within the higher education sector in relation to gender and institution.


UCU ballot higher education staff over 'disappointing' pay offer

UCU began balloting its higher education members for industrial action this week following a pay offer of 1% from the employer body.

The union said the initial offer from the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) was much less than universities could afford and would do little to address the real terms pay cut of 14.5% suffered by higher education staff since 2009.

Describing the offer as 'disappointing', Sally Hunt told Times Higher Education, 'I hope that the employers will respond to the strength of feeling among staff and make an offer which genuinely addresses our pay claim'.


Overwhelming no confidence vote in Reading vice-chancellor

Staff at the University of Reading this week delivered a damning vote of no confidence in vice-chancellor Sir David Bell following an online survey organised by the 'Staff against PAS' group opposed to the university management's controversial Professional and Administrative Staff (PAS) review.  The vote was open to all staff and, of those who took part, 88% registered a vote of no confidence in Sir David and the review.

UCU Reading branch president Paul Hatcher told Times Higher Education that it was 'time for the management of Reading to start listening to concerns raised by staff,'and encouraged negotiations to find alternatives to downgrading and redundancies.

The vote was also covered locally by BBC and GetReading where a university spokesman admitted that staff consultation 'could, and should, have been stronger'.

Last updated: 15 April 2016