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In the news 22 February 2019

Angela Rayner tells UCU members free-market experiment in higher education has failed

Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner was among the speakers at UCU's annual Cradle to Grave conference on Saturday. In advance of her speech, the Ashton-under-Lyne MP told the Guardian how a Labour government would end the "failed free-market experiment in higher education", take a tougher line on vice-chancellors' pay and improve academic diversity.

UCU head of policy Matt Waddup told the paper that: 'Angela Rayner is right to highlight the damage that this government's marketisation agenda is doing to further and higher education. While students and staff are central to the social and economic future of this country, their views are habitually ignored by ministers.'

The theme of the event in Manchester was "reimagining education - towards a National Education Service". Other speakers included the Guardian's John Harris, Jo Platt MP for Leigh, poet Melz Owusu from the University of Leeds and Dr Jo Littler from City University. Topics covered ranged from equality in education to marketisation and the picket line as a classroom.

 

Labour unveils members of its lifelong learning commission

The Labour party unveiled its new lifelong learning commission this week. The party said the commission will help to inform proposals for its National Education Service. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn vowed that, if it came to power, the party would ensure "genuine parity" between vocational and academic education.

The commission will bring together 14 experts from across education and will be co-chaired by former Labour education secretary Baroness Morris of Yardley and the general secretary of the Communication Workers' Union, Dave Ward. Shadow skills minister Gordon Marsden sets out why the commission matters in a piece for Tes.

UCU's Matt Waddup is one of the 14-strong panel along with Amatey Doku from the National Union of Students, Vicky Duckworth, professor in education at Edge Hill University and Graeme Atherton, director of the National Education Opportunities Network.

 

Ballot opens at Oaklands College in pay row

A ballot of UCU members at Oaklands College opened yesterday and will close on Monday 11 March. If staff back strike action, they will join colleagues at other colleges in a third wave of strikes over pay and conditions in March.

Previously, UCU members at six colleges took action in November and staff at 13 colleges walked out last month. The dispute centres on the failure of colleges to make a decent offer to staff who have seen the value of their pay decline by 25% over the last decade.

Speaking to the local paper, UCU regional official Jane Thompson said: 'Staff at Oaklands College are fed up with seeing their pay held down and believe the college can afford more than it is currently offering. The college's refusal to make a fair offer has left staff with no alternative but to ballot for strike action.'

 

Cardiff University lecturer's widow speaks out about dangerous workloads

The widow of a Cardiff University lecturer who killed himself has demanded action to tackle workload pressures. Speaking to the BBC, Diane Anderson said the university knew her husband Dr Malcolm Anderson was under significant pressure.

The inquest into Dr Anderson's death heard he had left two notes before he fell from the university building in which he worked - one to his family and another referring to work pressures and long hours. He was 48 when he died.

Cardiff University said it takes the welfare of staff extremely seriously. The university has recently announced plans to axe 380 jobs - around 7% of staff - over the next five years.

 

College head earned £143,000 for seven months' work

An interim principal who ran Kensington and Chelsea College for a period during which a proposed merger was called off earned £143,000 for seven months of work reported Tes today. That means Elaine McMahon, who was interim principal at, received over £20,000 per month.

Had she stayed a year, her pay would have been £245,142. That makes her one of the highest paid principals in the country in this period, despite being at a small college with an income of just £8.59 million in 2017-18.

A UCU spokesperson said: 'The further education sector is working to try and make the case for better funding for our colleges. Massive salaries doled out to a few at the top undermine that case and emphasise why so many UCU members have taken action demanding fairer pay. We need better scrutiny of pay at the top of the sector and better pay for everyone else. Colleges should be working with us to make that happen.'

 

Who should run universities?

Following the resignation of Dominic Shellard as vice-chancellor of De Montfort University, Times Higher Education takes a look at "a remarkable series of abrupt senior departures and suspensions at UK universities".

The magazine's John Morgan says that marketisation has brought radical change to the way universities operate and, arguably, governance has failed to evolve. One commentator suggests one route is to pay governors, while Morgan says another - academic self-governance - only has any prospect of emerging under a non-marketised system.

Matt Waddup said: 'The time has come for proper transparency in the key decisions being taken at the top table of our universities and a serious look at who is taking them. We need to have staff and student representatives on the major decision-making bodies if the sector is to start rebuilding trust.'

 

MPs warn that access to education is a postcode lottery

A report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Social Mobility released yesterday highlights the disparities between students' chances of getting to university based on where they live. The Independent said the report warned that the emergence of large areas of low educational attainment have contributed to deep social divisions in Britain.

Matt Waddup said: 'Those with the greatest access to qualifications tend to be healthier, wealthier and more active citizens. Yet, as this report shows, where you live largely determines your chances of educational success.

'What we really need is proper investment across the board in areas that have the lowest access to education and the opportunities it provides. Further education colleges must be given proper resources to deliver the education that is so vital in those areas ignored by politicians for too long.'

Last updated: 22 February 2019

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