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UCU fights privatisation plans for Oxford Brookes

2 February 2007 | last updated: 14 December 2015

UCU today said that it will fight plans to privatise a language centre at Oxford Brookes University all the way.

The university is currently considering plans to establish a joint venture with a company called INTO to deliver English language courses to international students.

The local UCU branch took a unanimous decision at its meeting on Wednesday to oppose any moves to privatise the International Centre for English Language Studies. The staff believe that if the centre is sold off the quality of the student experience will deteriorate.

Earlier this week the joint general secretary of UCU, Sally Hunt, wrote to the head of the UK's universities umbrella group, Universities UK, opposing increasing levels of private sector involvement in key university functions.

UCU is concerned about the quality of education provided and the impact on the terms and conditions of the staff where private provision replaces that of the institution itself. The union cited examples of private companies trying to recruit less-qualified staff for lower pay and the redundancies announced as part of the transfer of language courses at another university in its letter.

Staff at the threatened International Centre for English Language Studies at Oxford Brookes say they are astonished by the proposed plans. They have continued to deliver high quality courses to large numbers of international students and see no reason for the changes.

Oxford Brookes University UCU representative, Angie Pears, said: 'The staff at Oxford Brookes have the expertise, experience and commitment to continue to deliver high quality courses to large numbers of international students. The university's senior management needs to share our view that the language centre is an integral part of our University, not something to be bought or sold.'

UCU joint general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'Our universities are a public good. The focus of higher education should be to provide a learning environment for students not an earning environment for privateers. The overseas student market is of vital importance to UK higher education. It is not an add-on to be hived off to the highest bidder.

'Reductions in the quality of preparation of non-UK students for degree study and in the quality of staff that provide this vital service will lead to a decline in the UK's reputation abroad as well as a reduction in the numbers who come to study here and I urge universities not to privatise.'