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In the news: 16 September 2016

16 September 2016 | last updated: 15 May 2019

A look back at some of the week's news

Smartest students could be priced out by rising university costs, warns international report

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) warned yesterday that the cost of going to university could price out the smartest students. The influential group's annual Education at a Glance report also revealed the high numbers of international students who choose to study in the UK.

Showing that UK students graduating today have the second highest average debt amongst all OECD countries, the report questioned if a rising debt burden could affect who applies to university.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'This influential report suggests there is a price limit - if the cost of going to university in the UK is allowed to keep rising, it could make it impossible for some of the best students to get into higher education. We need stability for EU students in the wake of the Brexit vote. Prospective EU students have no guarantees on what studying in Britain will cost for the duration of their courses - which could be up to four years.'


MP calls for crackdown on fat cat university salaries

The controversial Higher Education and Research Bill continued its journey through parliament this week with members of the bill committee taking evidence and considering amendments. Committee member Wes Streeting has tabled more than 30 amendments to the bill, but seen them voted down by the majority of Tories on the committee.

Writing for Labour List, the Ilford North MP sets out why he believes amendments are needed to ensure a fairer deal for university staff when it comes to pay and to deliver more transparency on pay at the top.


University of Essex to recognise teaching postgraduates as teaching staff

The University of Essex has said that from October, graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) and graduate laboratory assistants (GLAs) will be treated as members of staff who are trainee academics and the institution will provide the help, support and facilities to support them in this role. Essex vice-chancellor Anthony Forster said: 'Postgraduates who teach are the future of our profession and we want to provide the right framework at the start of their careers to help them succeed. We hope that we have risen to this challenge.'

UCU president at the University of Essex Dr Chris Fox said: 'UCU were closely involved in the consultation over improvement of GTA terms and conditions. We are happy to have helped improve clarity concerning the rate of pay for GTAs, calculation of paid hours based on standard grades, payment for mandatory training, and other crucial issues.'


Staff to lobby University of Leicester ahead of decision on future of lifelong learning centre

Staff at the University of Leicester are lobbying the university's Council when it meets today to make a crunch decision about the future of a popular centre for lifelong learning at the institution.

The university's consultation on the future of the Vaughan Centre for Lifelong Learning resulted in the university leadership team making a recommendation it is closed. But the final decision now rests with Council.

UCU regional support official Julie Cooper said: 'Universities cannot simply talk about reaching out to students without efforts to back those words up. The Vaughan Centre provides lifelong learning opportunities, aimed primarily at people who have no, or limited, experience of higher education, or come from disadvantaged backgrounds.'


UCU at the TUC

It was a busy time for UCU delegates at the 148th annual TUC congress in Brighton this week. Brexit was a dominant theme of the week with numerous speakers making the case for proper protection of jobs and conditions in the wake of the vote to leave.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt spoke to UCU's motion on the post-Brexit landscape. She highlighted the important role immigrants have played in Britain and how the disgusting drip feed of racism and xenophobia during the referendum had resulted in increased numbers of hate crimes - themes that she picked up on in a piece for the Morning Star stressing the importance of unity.

Vice-president Vicky Knight also penned a piece for the Star looking at inequality in the workplace and the problem with zero-hours contracts and other forms of casualisation. A review of UCU's activities in Brighton can be found here.