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In the news: 23 September 2016

23 September 2016 | last updated: 28 September 2016

A look back at some of the week's news

Colleges and universities have to admit there is a problem with insecure contracts

Speaking on Radio 4's flagship consumer affairs programme You and Yours today, UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said the employers in colleges and universities should work with UCU to uncover the full extent of zero-hours and other casual contracts being used in colleges and universities.

Responding to claims from the Universities and Colleges Employers Association that insecure contracts were a form of flexible working that benefitted many staff, Sally said such a claim was 'sophistry of the highest order'. Pushed on the reasons behind the high numbers of insecure contracts, Sally blamed bad management and said the time had come for greater security and standards for both staff and students.


Calls to increase number of women professors

Sally Hunt said this week that while women's place in academia is firmly established, their representation at the highest levels remains disappointingly low. She was speaking as Baroness Burt launched a campaign to boost the number of female professors and vice-chancellors in UK universities.

Sally said the reasons behind why so few women were in top posts needed to be investigated: 'It is not good enough to say "no women applied" or "we just appoint the best person for the job" if the result of each recruitment or promotion exercise is a systematic under-representation of women in senior grades.'

On Wednesday this week, the UN launched a report which the BBC said showed how the problem of women underrepresentation is not restricted to the UK with similar patterns across universities in the United States, Japan, China, Brazil, France and South Africa.


Tyneside merger must not lead to restriction in student choice

On Monday, UCU said it wanted guarantees that students at a new college, formed by the merger of South Tyneside and Tyne Metropolitan colleges, could still expect a decent range of courses at all the college's sites. Responding to the announcement that the colleges are to formally merge, the union said it expected to be part of the consultation and would be seeking assurances on the job security of its members.

UCU regional official Iain Owens said: 'The union will be looking for guarantees that students can continue to expect the high quality and decent choice of courses which the colleges have provided in the past. Continuing to provide education on both sides of the Tyne will be a key factor for us. We will be looking to be part of the early consultations around the merger proposals and seeking assurances on the future job security of our members.'


Hull College strike ballot opens over redundancies

Members of UCU at Hull College are being balloted for strike action in a row over job losses.

The college plans to make 141 redundancies, which come on top of recent rounds of redundancies that have already seen 385 jobs lost since 2011. The latest plans will result in up to 60 lecturers losing their jobs and see all three college nurseries closed. Jobs will also go in essential services including the library, learning support and IT.

UCU regional official Julie Kelley said: 'This is an outrageous attack on hardworking and dedicated staff. There is a lot of anger amongst staff who believe the college management is rushing into yet more job losses without fully considering alternative options. Almost 400 jobs have already gone in the last five years and it is ludicrous of the college to think that more front-line cuts will do anything other than further diminish the student experience.'


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

Writing in Times Higher Education this week, an employee of the University of Leicester's Vaughan Centre for Lifelong Learning - a department that the university is trying to close down - says the vice-chancellor just doesn't understand what the centre does and has done for 150 years.

She points out that she and her colleagues provide accessible higher education courses that people can do alongside work or other commitments, for students who can't attend full-time courses. Writing in defence of adult education, she says it is so heart-breaking to see the centre at risk thanks to such mindless cuts.