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In the news this week: 26 February 2016

26 February 2016

A look back at some of the week's news

Joint strike in further education over 'insulting' pay freeze

Thousands of UCU and UNISON members in further education walked out on Wednesday's pay strike. The action was covered by ITV, the Times Educational Supplement, FE Week and locally.

Speaking at a strike rally in London alongside shadow FE minister Gordon Marsden MP, Sally Hunt said the pay freeze was an 'insult to the commitment and enthusiasm of staff' and that current FE funding was beyond what is 'reasonable and survivable'.

UCU's further education committee will meet again on 4 March to discuss next steps.


More scrutiny for senior pay, as Scottish universities call for less transparency

Vice-chancellor pay was back in the news as Times Higher Education focussed on six-figure exit packages for outgoing university leaders. Sally Hunt said that the case was clear for a 'much more open and accountable system for senior pay', while Barry Sheerman MP highlighted the chasm between vice-chancellor and staff pay on Twitter in response to new figures on HE salaries from the Universities and Colleges Employer Association. You can check the figures at your institution on UCU's Rate For The Job web tool.

Meanwhile Universities Scotland joined the Russell Group's call for universities to be exempted from Freedom of Information (FOI) requirements. The Herald heard from UCU Scotland official Mary Senior that universities mustn't be allowed to wriggle out of their responsibilities, and that FOI was crucial for effective public scrutiny.


£30m cut to Scottish university budgets 'deeply worrying'

UCU Scotland official Mary Senior also told the Herald that cuts of £30m to the budget for Scottish universities were deeply worrying, but not an excuse for staff cuts- especially while university leaders were still enjoying large pay rises themselves.

Following the announcement on public funding, Robert Gordon University revealed on Thursday that it would be looking to save £4 million by cutting around 100 jobs. Responding, UCU said that this would impact on quality and lead to a huge loss of expertise.


Progress on gender gap in Scottish universities 'agonisingly slow'

The Herald shone a spotlight on gender inequality in Scotland's universities this week, revealing that while women make up 45% of the academic workforce in Scotland, only 22% of professors are female. Mary Senior, UCU Scotland official, said progress on gender equality was 'agonisingly slow' and called on universities to 'set and monitor recruitment targets for top posts' in an effort to tackle the problem.


Government rejects teacher representation on new apprenticeship body

Calls from Labour for teachers and colleges to be represented alongside employers on the new Institute for Apprenticeships board were rejected in parliament this week. Andrew Harden, UCU head of FE, told FE Week that the while employer engagement is essential, the full range of stakeholders should be represented.


College loan debts hit £1.6bn

The Times Educational Supplement reported that colleges' loan debt has hit £1.6bn, while colleges have an operating deficit of £60m. UCU head of FE, Andrew Harden, said that budget cuts had left many colleges in difficult circumstances, and called on government to increase public funding so they could 'spend resources on supporting students rather than paying down debts.'