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In the news: 4 October

NUS stands "shoulder to shoulder" with UCU in fight for fair pay and pensions

The National Union of Students (NUS) and UCU issued a joint statement on Monday saying students stand "shoulder to shoulder" with staff in the ongoing disputes over pay and pensions. The statement outlines the shared commitment of both organisations to defending education, and calls on students to organise solidarity action in support of UCU members fighting attacks on pay and pensions.

The statement also asks students to contact their institution to raise concerns about the impact potential disruption may have on their studies, and put pressure on university employers to address the concerns of staff. UCU has pledged to work closely with NUS to explain to students why the current ballots are taking place and commit to meaningful negotiations to resolve the disputes.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: 'UCU and NUS have a shared commitment to defending education and we are proud of our joint work in striving for a better deal for staff and students. Staff's working conditions are students' learning conditions which is why it's vital that we stand up against attacks on pay, pensions, workload and job insecurity. We welcome the support of NUS as we fight for the future of our universities.'

 

Strikes at Nottingham College enter third week as members' resolve hardens

UCU president Douglas Chalmers visited striking UCU members on picket lines on Tuesday and told them that the intransigence of the college, coupled with attacks on staff by the CEO, were hardening members' resolve, but were letting down staff and students.

Local UCU members, who are in the middle of 15 days of strike action, are fighting a move from the college to impose new contracts which would leave some staff more than £1,000 a year worse off, as well as reducing holiday entitlement and removing protections against work overload. Staff at the college have not received a pay rise since 2010. Support for the strikers is also growing outside the college as 3,500 people have now signed a petition calling for Nottingham College staff to be given the contracts they deserve.

UCU members will be out on strike all week next week from Monday at all the main college entrances including on Maid Marian Way, on Pelham Avenue at the Clarendon Campus and outside the Adams Building in the Lace Market.

 

Backlash over Trinity College's decision to opt out of USS pension scheme

Trinity College Cambridge is facing a backlash after formally withdrawing from the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS). Following the move in May, UCU censured the college and warned it risked prompting an international boycott if it did not reverse its decision. In June, the union said Trinity's overreaction to such an unlikely risk would result in a scheme exit bill of millions of pounds and untold damage to its reputation if the boycott was sanctioned.

On Wednesday, Dr Arthur Asseraf, a lecturer in French history, said that he and "several others" were resigning from their fellowships at Trinity College to protest against the college's decision to leave the USS. The Telegraph reported that Dr Asseraf said that the number of resignations the college now faces is "unprecedented", adding that Trinity's decision was "both selfish and unfounded".

The news comes as USS members' contributions for their pension rose to 9.6% of salary and the Joint Expert Panel, created to scrutinise USS said its second report would be delayed.

 

Home Office hostile environment

The Guardian shone another light on the damage the hostile environment is having on international university staff and their families this week. The paper reported on the case of American academic Amber Murray whose husband and children have been barred from joining her in the UK.

It says this is the second time in a month that the Home Office has refused a visa to an American academic based at Oxford University. Last month the paper reported that Dr Elizabeth Ford, a music historian about to start a fellowship at Oxford, was given two weeks to leave after eight years in the UK, because the Home Office said it had granted her last visa erroneously.

Elsewhere this week, Research Fortnight found that the Home Office appears to have no idea how many times it has refused to grant a visa to overseas academics hoping to visit the UK.

 

Further education needs proper funding and support, says UCU

This week, education secretary Gavin Williamson promised to deliver a "revolution in technical education", and told the Conservative conference that the UK would overtake Germany in this area over the next 10 years.

Focusing on further education, Williamson announced £120m for a new wave of institutes of technology, that he said "had the potential to transform high-level technical education" by bringing together further education colleges, universities and employers.

Speaking to FE Week, UCU head of further education Andrew harden said: "Warm words and a pledge to match Germany are something of a rite of passage for any new minister, but what we desperately need is proper funding and support."

Last updated: 4 October 2019