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In the news: 18 March 2016

UCU responds to budget

UCU responded to the chancellor's budget announcement this week by highlighting concerns that new loans for doctoral study would leave many PhD graduates with debts of over £80,000, warning that this could act as a disincentive to pursuing a career in academia.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, called for increased investment, saying: 'Instead of blocking off a key academic pathway with a mountain of debt, the government should be prioritising direct public investment in the postgraduates who will make up our future higher education workforce.'


Sally Hunt writes for Times Higher Education on casualisation in HE

Sally Hunt wrote in the Times Higher Education this week to outline drawbacks of an absence of the academic in the current debate around 'quality' in higher education and the need for improvements to staff working practices.

Outlining the importance of a proper career structure, she highlighted UCU's concerns about the current green paper and called for institutions to publish more information about the proportion of staff employed on casual contracts.

She concluded by saying, 'The truth is that I have met many great teachers who are on casual contracts. Yet what they achieve with their students is almost always in spite of the system they are forced to work within. I believe that students are entitled to know this about how their teachers are treated. It matters at a human level, but it matters to the education they receive too.'


UCU responds to schools white paper

Responding to the publication of the schools white paper, UCU called for careful consultation on quality measures for Initial Teacher Training (ITT) and warned that centres of excellence should not divert resources away from other providers at a time of teacher shortages.

Sally Hunt called on the government to 'take a cautious approach to any new quality measures and consult carefully to ensure that good providers are not penalised by blunt metrics, which are often poor proxies for quality. The government should support as many good teacher training providers as possible in order to meet its teacher recruitment requirements.'


 UCU Scotland responds to Commission on Widening Access report

UCU Scotland welcomed the report of the Commission on Widening Access that called for university admission thresholds to be lowered for students from deprived backgrounds.

Speaking to the Glasgow Evening Times UCU Scotland official, Mary Senior, said: 'Scotland has a demonstrably poor record on widening access and it is important that the issue and these findings get a proper airing during the forthcoming election and that the new Scottish Government looks to make real progress.'


Guardian HE gender equality debate roundup published

UCU's head of bargaining and negotiations, Michael MacNeil, took part in on online debate on gender equality on International Women's Day and the Guardian this week published a summary of the key points. Michael answered a variety of questions and made the point that a lack of transparency around pay in higher education was a key concern.


College principal pay hikes

College principal's pay was back in the news this week with the publication by the Skills Funding Agency of college accounts for 2014/15.  The highest pay rise saw the principal and CEO of Nescot receive a pay hike of a massive 120% to over £300,000.

Sally Hunt told TES 'While some principals at UK colleges continue to enjoy sky-high salaries and pay hikes, staff pay continues to be held down. At a time when staff are facing real-terms pay cuts we are disappointed that principals salaries continues to remain so high.' UCU also responded in local press and pointed out that staff had received either pay freezes or lower than inflation pay rises for the past six years, saying 'These figures show that too many principals are completely out of touch when it comes to pay.'

Last updated: 18 March 2016