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In the news 26 July 2019

Declining satisfaction levels with USS as scheme refuses to publish full data 
Member satisfaction with the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) has plummeted, according to the scheme's annual report released yesterday. Times Higher Education said the report showed that the state of the relationship with members "declined" in 2018, with only 31% of members reporting a positive relationship with the scheme, down from 38% in 2017. Meanwhile, 23% held a negative view, up from 16% in 2017.
Unlike previous years, this year's report does not include figures on member satisfaction. Last year less than half (48%) of members said they were satisfied with the scheme, a considerable drop from around two-thirds (66%) in 2016/17.
UCU general secretary-elect Jo Grady said: 'It has been clear for some time that USS has lost members' trust and that it has taken the annual report to alert those leading the scheme to this fact suggests they are worryingly out of touch. Considering the complaints around governance this year, we are extremely concerned that USS appears to be cherry-picking what statistics to include in the report. Instead of holding USS to account, universities are willing to make scheme members pay more for the same pension.'

Students and staff must lead admissions review say UCU
UCU said on Monday that an overhaul of university admissions is long overdue but should be informed by students and staff directly involved in the admissions process. The review into the university admissions process, launched by Universities UK, will examine whether it would be fairer to move away from a system based on predicted exam grades. 
Speaking to the BBC, UCU acting general secretary Paul Cottrell said: 'There is growing support for a shift to a post-qualification admissions system. Our research shows such a move would not only be fairer for students, it would bring the UK into line with the rest of the world and eliminate the use of controversial unconditional offers and the chaotic clearing process.'
In its leader, the Times highlighted how we are different from others countries as we select on the basis of predicted grades rather than actual results. It said that the majority of A-level predictions turn out to be wrong and poorer students suffer from lower predictions than their ability warrants. It suggested that it might be better for the admissions process to begin once the numbers are in rather than before and for the Universities UK review to recommend the same. 

UCU backs students' call for greater use of context in exam results 
UCU said yesterday that it welcomed support from students for greater emphasis on the context in which exam results are achieved. A report on university admissions from the Higher Education Policy Institute, found that around three-quarters of students (73%) thought it was harder to achieve good exam results if you grew up in a disadvantaged area and 72% said higher education admissions should take account of applicants' backgrounds.
Speaking to the Independent, UCU acting general secretary Paul Cottrell said it was encouraging that students recognise that not all exam achievements are equal and that universities should not treat them as such. 
He said: 'There needs to be much greater use of contextual data so that students progress according to their achievements and potential. The best way to deliver fairness is better use of contextualised offers and to radically overhaul the system so students can apply to university after they receive their results.'

Report calls for colleges to be put at the heart of lifelong learning
Colleges should be repositioned at the heart of a lifelong learning system for the 21st century, a new UCU report said this week. The Transformative Teaching and Learning in Further Education report demonstrates the extent to which further and adult education transforms lives and provides hope to communities, but argues that a new funding and policy framework is required if they are to fulfil their potential.
The report, which features a foreword from shadow education secretary Angela Rayner, is the culmination of UCU's Further Education: Transforming Lives research project. 
Setting out five ways to improve lifelong learning in the Tes, report co-author Professor Vicky Duckworth and UCU's Matt Waddup said the lessons for policymakers from this report were clear. They argue that adult education is necessary for personal enrichment and growth, but that compulsory education alone cannot meet the needs of the rapid changes in the world of work, now and in the coming years. 

Why and how unions must play leading role on climate change
Writing for Education International as they held their eighth world congress in Thailand this week, UCU bargaining officer Adam Lincoln said that working people and students are on the front line in the fight against climate change. He warned that 83 million climate-related refugees have already fled from disaster and 72 million jobs are under threat. 
However, he said that, despite a growing body of evidence showing the current and future impacts of climate change, governments are not responding fast enough and education unions must play a pivotal role in the global climate movement. 
He argued that we must build alliances with other trade unions, students and environmental organisations because if trade unions do not speak with a united voice then employers, multi-national corporations and anti-worker governments will simply make decisions on industrial strategy and economic change without our involvement.

Last updated: 26 July 2019

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