In the news: 20 May 2016

HE plans set out in white paper and bill

The government outlined its plans for the future of higher education this week, introducing a new bill in Wednesday's Queen's Speech following a white paper on Monday. Proposals include faster extension of degree-awarding powers to new HE providers, regulatory reform and confirmation of plans for the introduction of a teaching excellence framework (TEF).

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt told the Telegraph that the government had set out a 'clear course to privatise higher education', warning in the BBC and Guardian of the 'danger' of opening up the sector following scandals in the UK and abroad, and calling for rigorous quality measures to be applied. These concerns were reinforced in an open letter signed by several UCU members.

The union also told Times Higher Education that it was 'hard to see' how the TEF would improve the standard of teaching, and said that the best way to raise quality was to ensure academic careers remain attractive and invest in the workforce.

More investment required for meaningful prison education reform

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said this week that more investment is required if meaningful reform is to be achieved in prison education. Responding to plans announced in the Queen's Speech which take forward recommendations from the Coates' review of prison education, UCU said that 'more needs to be done to bring the pay of prison educators into line with the wider further education sector.'

'Blatant double standards' in HE pay criticised as members prepare for strike

Research from Times Higher Education this week revealed that vice-chancellor salaries rose by more than 5% in 2014-15 - over four times faster than pay for most academic staff. UCU condemned these 'blatant double standards' and told the Telegraph and Mirror that staff pay should rise at the same rate as university leaders. The union said the current 1.1% pay offer does nothing to address issues like falling real-terms pay and widespread casualisation, and that it was 'no wonder people are saying enough is enough and backing strike action'. Local press reported on plans for strikes at universities across the country including in Bristol, York and Wolverhampton.

Call for halt to job cuts at City of Bristol College 

Plans to cut up to 100 jobs at City of Bristol College were criticised this week, with UCU warning that the plans could 'threaten the future viability of the college'. Regional official Nick Varney told TES and the Bristol Post that the college had been mismanaged but that 'slash and burn of staff and provision' was not the answer to the college's problems.

Nescot principal and husband under fire for undeclared payments

The principal of Nescot has come under fire this week for payments made to a consultancy run by her husband which were not properly declared to the college governing body. Commenting in FE Week, UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said the revelation was a 'real concern' and 'symptomatic of a wider issue'. She added that while staff pay has been held down, 'too many college principals like Ms Mann have continued to enjoy bumper pay awards and sanction profligate spending on agencies' and called on ministers to take action to ensure public money was being properly spent on staff and learners.

London Met accused of trade union victimisation

Two UCU members at London Metropolitan University have accused the university of trade union victimisation after they were among 14 staff made compulsorily redundant as part of the university's efficiency plans. Speaking to Times Higher Education, branch president Mark Campbell said the pair had been subject to a 'highly flawed selection process' which has seen them 'singled out' for their trade union work, and vowed to fight the decision. 

Last updated: 20 May 2016