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In the news this week: 27 November 2015

27 November 2015 | last updated: 15 January 2016

A look back at the week's UCU news.

Spending review education announcement reaction

The Chancellor's spending review on Wednesday didn't cut education budgets as deeply as feared, with cash spending protected for adult skills and 16-19 education. However, the chancellor did announce the extension of loans to cover student maintenance, part-time study and higher-level skills in further education, alongside a freeze in the repayment threshold.

Sally Hunt said that education had already borne more than its fair share of the cuts, and told Times Higher Education (THE) and the Guardian that the changes were unsustainable and would hit poorest student the hardest. A letter in the Guardian noted that previous cuts have already had a 'profound' effect on the sector and called for more investment.

UCU's briefing on the spending review summarises the key announcements.

Strikes commence at Open University as it pushes ahead with regional centre closure plans

Staff walked out at 13 sites across the UK on Wednesday following the decision by the Open University council to push ahead with plans to axe seven regional centres. The strike was covered widely by the BBC, THE, and local press. In a blog for THE, OU lecturer Geoff Andrews said the closures threaten the 'progressive history' of the university. OU branch chair, Pauline Collins, called the decision 'deeply disappointing' and said that members had been left with no alternative but to take strike action. A programme of regional strikes will commence on Monday in Birmingham.

Staff back strike action at University of Manchester in job row

Over three-quarters of staff have backed strike action at the University of Manchester in a row over changes to redeployment practice and the announcement of over 200 redundancies. Talks with conciliation service ACAS are ongoing, and regional official Martyn Moss said the ballot result showed 'members' strong support for their colleagues and their anger at the threats which these changes pose to the job security of all staff.'

Student finances in Scotland highlight need for more public investment

The student finance system in Scotland is 'not fit for purpose', MSPs were told in an evidence session this week, with some colleges running out of money to support students through their studies. Commenting on the debate, UCU Scotland official Mary Senior told Holyrood Magazine that the problems highlighted a need for more public funding in post-16 education in Scotland.

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