HE national disputes 2021

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In the news: 17 June

Strikes hit universities as escalated action begins

Eight UK universities were hit with strike action in the past week as UCU escalated its industrial action in a row with universities over pay. Members at the University of Winchester led the wave of nationwide strikes when they walked out last Friday.

Since then, there have been strikes at the universities of Edinburgh, Kent, Sussex, Glasgow and the University of The West of Scotland. Today members at the universities of Bath and Bristol are walking out to disrupt open days at their institutions. Tomorrow staff at Essex and Coventry are taking action, also to coincide with open days.

The institutions to be hit next week are:

Monday 20 June

University of Stirling

Tuesday 21 June

University of Central Lancashire

Wednesday 22 June

University of Greenwich
University of Manchester
University of Oxford
University of Reading
Queen Margaret University
Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Dance
University of Wolverhampton
Trinity St David Wales

Thursday 23 June

London School of Hygiene and tropical Medicine
University of Leeds
University of Sheffield
Glasgow Caledonian University

Friday 24 June

University of Chester
University of Liverpool
University of Warwick
Glasgow School of Art
Heriot-Watt University
Oxford Brookes University

Staff at Hull College secure pay rise and improvements to observation system

UCU members at Hull College have ended their dispute over pay and lesson observations, having secured a pay rise and an end to no-notice observations. Following negotiation with the union, the college has agreed to give staff increased notice ahead of observations and award a 0.5% pay rise, backdated to August 2015, to all staff.

UCU regional official, Julie Kelley, told the Hull Daily Mail: 'We're really pleased that the college has responded to the concerns raised by staff. The positive changes to lesson observations will lead to a more constructive approach and hopefully reduce stress levels, while the confirmation of a pay award is a welcome recognition of the hard work done by staff.'

Leading American academic pulls out of speaking tour at Stirling University in support of striking lecturers

Striking university staff at the University of Stirling received a boost ahead of their strike on Monday (20 June) when leading American educationalist, Professor Michael Apple, pulled out of a planned lecture in support of their action.

Mary Senior, UCU Scotland Official, said: 'We are genuinely grateful to Professor Apple for his support.  Our members want the best for their students and the very last thing they want to do is go on strike.  To have someone of his stature offer his support will help put pressure on universities to come back with a fair pay offer.'

College staff work more than two days a week for free, UCU survey reveals

FE staff work an average of two unpaid days per week, according to a survey released by the UCU. The union's 2016 Workload Survey, which comprises the responses of almost 5,000 members working in FE, reveals that in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, staff worked an average of 51.6 hours a week, with the vast majority of staff (91 per cent) reporting that the pace and intensity of their workloads had increased, and 81 per cent reporting that it had increased significantly.

More than three-quarters of all staff (78 per cent) said that they thought that their work was unmanageable at least half of the time. Within this, one third of all staff (33 per cent) reported that their workload was unmanageable most of the time, and one in 10 reported that their workload was entirely unmanageable. Almost half of respondents (46 per cent) said that the amount time spent marking exams had increased significantly over the past three years.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, told TES: 'This survey paints a worrying picture of rising workloads, increased admin burdens and long hours. Unmanageable workloads lead to higher levels of stress and sickness and damage the quality of education for students. Colleges need to stop expecting more for less from their staff and address the serious points raised in this report.'

New figures reveal paucity of data on private providers clamouring for more public money

UCU said on Wednesday that the government needed to collect better data from more alternative providers of higher education, before allowing them greater access to public money and the UK higher education sector.

The union was commenting as the Higher Education Statistics Agency released data on alternative providers for the first time. The data for 2014/15 covered just 63 alternative providers, less than 10 per cent of the 732 alternative providers identified in a report from the department for business, innovation and skills in spring 2014.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, told the Independent: 'While it is encouraging that there is finally an effort being made to collect data on these alternative providers, fewer than one in ten are submitting any data. Ministers need to halt plans for further expansion of alternative providers until proper quality checks can be carried out, and they commit to providing the same levels of information as public universities also in receipt of taxpayers' money.'

Strathclyde principal pockets £60,000 second salary for sitting on a board

As strikes hit Scotland and the rest of the UK as part of UCU's the fight for fair pay, the Herald revealed that principal of Strathclyde University pocketed £57,250 for sitting on a corporate board. Sir Jim McDonald, who is already the highest-paid higher education chief north of the border, received the equivalent of £3,816 for each of the 15 board meetings he attended at the Weir Group.

Confirmation of McDonald's extra earnings comes after the University splashed out £1.1m on a lavish Glasgow townhouse for his use. At the time of purchase, the magnificent five-floor property in the city's Park Circus boasted three offices, four bedrooms, two bathrooms, a dining room, drawing room, 'show' room, workshop, study and two sitting rooms. The University also spent £339,000 sprucing up the luxury property, including £4,000 on a wardrobe, £1,180 on a chair, £825 for one drawer and £3400 on sofas.

UCU Scottish official, Mary Senior, said: 'One of the great sources of frustration and anger amongst our members is the incredible disconnect that exists between principals and the rest of staff. UCU members are currently taking industrial action to reverse years of real-terms pay cuts from universities and to address pay inequality. However, those at the top who are holding down their pay, seem to see nothing wrong with second incomes, grace and favour houses or inflation-busting pay rises.'

Alternative white paper

Campaigners launched an alternative higher education white paper on Monday in Westminster. Presenting the case for an education system that delivers research addressing social and scientific challenges, defends academic freedoms and seeks to provide an education to the next generation that is not simply a narrow focus on the acquisition of qualifications, the publication argues that critical skills are necessary to meet the challenge of business and for inclusive democratic engagement.

Sally Hunt said: 'We need an education system that puts students, pioneering research and academic freedom at its heart. The government's narrow focus on qualifications and allowing for-profit companies to enter the university market cannot achieve this.' 

Last updated: 13 March 2019