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Protect universities and colleges now so they can lead recovery, UCU tells minister

2 April 2020

The government must provide immediate support to colleges and universities to ensure they can help lead the recovery when the coronavirus crisis is over

In a letter to secretary of state for education, Gavin Williamson, the union called for a "clear and coherent plan" and set out seven proposals it said will ensure universities and colleges can retain academic capacity now and help build for the future.

The union said the government needed to secure funding, protect jobs and guarantee that no institution will go to the wall. The union said the UK could ill afford to throw thousands of teachers, researchers and professional support staff on the dole at a time when education will be a key driver of recovery.

In order to protect institutions, UCU said the government had to guarantee funding for colleges and universities at current levels, and protect the additional funding already earmarked for research and further education sector jobs and salaries.

To secure jobs and salaries, UCU asked for urgent confirmation that furlough arrangements will apply to all staff - including those on insecure contracts - and for the one-year visa extension for NHS staff to cover visa holders working in colleges and universities.

Whilst student demand is likely to be lower in the short to medium term, the union said research showed that demographic change means there will be demand for an additional 50,000 university places by 2030.

UCU said "wasteful and unproductive" competition between, and within, the university and college sectors had to stop. The union said colleges and universities needed to work together to agree sector-wide timings for the resumption of teaching and work with the union and other stakeholders to deal with issues such as protecting the integrity of exams and assessment, and ensuring a fair and robust admissions system.

Looking to the future, the union said that the government needed a recovery plan for education that prioritised lifelong learning and reversed years of cuts to adult education.

UCU general secretary, Jo Grady, said: 'We need a clear and coherent plan from the government that guarantees funding and jobs to protect our academic capacity. The country can ill afford to throw thousands of teachers, researchers and professional support staff on the dole at a time when education will be a key driver of recovery.

'Furlough arrangements should apply to all staff - including those on insecure contracts - and the government should extend the one-year visa extension for NHS staff to cover people working in our colleges and universities. The government should underwrite funding at current levels and guarantee no institution will go to the wall.

'In return for government commitments on funding, we need colleges and universities to work together in the national interest and abandon wasteful and unproductive competitive behaviour.

 

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