HE national disputes 2021

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Bumper exam results must lead to pay rise

10 August 2021

UCU congratulated students and their teachers on this year's excellent A-level and BTEC results, and said the case for a pay rise for college and university staff is now stronger than ever.

UCU said staff in further education had worked incredibly hard to support students and ensure fair grades, but staff working in English colleges have been offered a risible 1% salary increase - a real terms pay cut. The pay gap between college and school teachers currently stands at £9,000 as staff working in further education have seen the value of their pay plummet by over 30% in the past decade. The union is demanding a pay increase of greater than 5% in an effort to close the school-college pay gap after more than a decade of below inflation college pay increases. It said that unless the pay demand is met, college staff across England will take strike action next term.

The union also hit out at universities for imposing a below inflation 1.5% pay offer whilst record numbers are going to university.

UCU slammed the government's plans to withdraw funding for BTECs, which play a crucial role in widening access to higher education. It said that students need flexible options and this year's results show there is still strong demand for the qualification.

The union also said that time has now come to move to post-qualification applications to university for a fairer admissions system.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said:  

'Today's results are a reflection of hard work and dedication of both students and staff after an incredibly difficult year. 

On staff pay, Jo said: 

'Sadly, in spite of these efforts, college employers only saw fit to offer staff a 1% pay rise, which is actually a significant real-terms pay cut. They need to think again and demonstrate they value their workforce otherwise we will see sustained strike action at colleges across England come autumn.  

'University employers also need to put the same faith in staff that this year's university applicants have and pay them fairly. A below inflation pay offer cannot be justified with record numbers of students entering higher education this year. 

On the UK government's plans to scrap BTECs, Jo said: 

'Thousands of students who receive their level 3 BTEC qualifications will now be able to enter higher education. Many will be the first in their families to do so. BTECs are a crucial entry route into university for those from working class backgrounds, yet the government wants to scrap them. The Department for Education needs to urgently change course if it truly cares about supporting students to reach their full potential. Cutting BTEC funding would hamper plans to level up communities and widen participation. 

On the university admissions system, Jo said: 

'After two extraordinary years, it's now time for the government to focus on ensuring the fairest possible system for the future of university admissions. If we want to begin removing the disadvantages currently baked into the system, students should apply to university after they receive their grades. Now is the time for bold reform which supports applicants to make better informed choices. Reforms also need to be underpinned by properly funded, structured advice and guidance to make the system fairer for all students.' 

UCU is campaigning to stop the government withdrawing BTEC funding. Sign the petition to protect student choice. 

Last updated: 10 August 2021