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Rejected English company to try its luck in Northern Ireland

3 December 2008 | last updated: 11 December 2015

UCU today urged Queen's University Belfast to reject a joint venture with the private education company INTO University Partnerships.

 The company has been rejected by four English universities and has now set its sights on Northern Ireland. Queen's University Belfast's Senate will meet on Tuesday 16 December to consider the proposal.

The union announced today that it is running an online poll for staff and said it is confident that staff will follow the examples of English colleagues who have always voted overwhelmingly to reject INTO's advances. The four universities that have rejected INTO are Oxford Brookes University, Essex University, Royal Holloway University of London and Goldsmiths College.

The union has campaigned vigorously against INTO as it believes privatisation will mean a worse deal for staff and students. UCU has raised concerns that staff in particular would get a raw deal if INTO were to take over the running of educational courses in universities, especially following the admission by its chairman earlier this year that INTO's rates of pay for teaching staff are 'probably worse' than in their host universities.

INTO's chairman, Andrew Colin, is on record as saying that 'rates of pay are probably worse' at his joint ventures

The union's concerns include:

  • INTO's chairman, Andrew Colin, is on record as saying that 'rates of pay are probably worse' at his joint ventures than those for equivalent posts in the partner universities. In 2000, he was also quoted in the Times Higher Education Supplement saying 'there is nothing to stop undergraduate teaching being outsourced'.
  • In May this year, Colin revealed that the company's accounts showed losses of £1.7 million. 
  • INTO's Joint Venture at Glasgow Caledonian University has set itself a target of recruiting 120 students this year. It has recruited 11 so far.
  • In every case where staff have been consulted, they have overwhelmingly rejected INTO. Voting in online referenda, 90% of staff at Essex University and 94% at Goldsmiths College said that a Joint Venture with INTO would adversely affect the university's reputation.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'UCU will continue its campaign against the privatisation of higher education. We are not prepared to watch our universities risk hard won reputations and future financial health by signing capital and revenue over to what are in effect private sector property developers.

'We urge staff at Queen's to have their say ahead of the Senate meeting on 16 December and we trust that the University management will follow the examples set by Essex and Goldsmiths and listen to what their staff have to say.'