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Week in news: 17 February 2017

Education community needs to "take back control"

Speaking at last weekend's Cradle To Grave conference in London, UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said that if Trump and Brexit are part of the post-truth problem, then universities and colleges must be part of the solution. She said that instead of being "cowed by the Brexiteers' clarion call of take back control, progressives should make it their own".

Ahead of the event, in comment pieces for both Times Higher Education and TES, Sally set out in more detail what she believed the education community must do in response to challenges posed by the vote to leave the European Union.

At the event UCU launched a booklet the union has produced in collaboration with Refugee Action that challenges negative perceptions about the impact of refugees and asylum seekers.


Academics like teaching

Nine out of 10 academics (88 per cent) say that teaching is a source of satisfaction to them, with just 6 per cent claiming that they are unhappy about having to educate students. The Times Higher Education's annual teaching survey reveals that academics appear to be as passionate about teaching as they are about their own research. Some 29 per cent of respondents say that they find teaching more rewarding than research: roughly the same proportion (30 per cent) as those who value research more highly.

In the main, academics enjoy teaching but don't like the lack of preparation time, bureaucratic burdens, unprepared students or the controversial Teaching Excellence Framework. Four-fifths of them (82%) said that National Student Survey results do not accurately represent teaching quality.


Where you live likely to determine educational opportunity

Teenagers' likelihood of applying to university depends heavily on where they live, according a report from the Press Association (PA) news agency. The findings echo work carried out by UCU that showed that where you live determines your chances of educational success and people living in traditionally underachieving areas are proportionately less likely to have a degree. The BBC reported that the PA report found that four times as many teenagers in Wimbledon, south London, applied to university compared with Havant in Hampshire.


Damning report on Hull College leaves future of CEO in doubt

The future of the Hull College Group chief executive Gary Warke is still unclear after his employers spent the week refusing to back him following the release of a damning report from the Further Education Commissioner. The report warned that the senior leadership team had not succeeded in addressing a steady decline in financial performance, recognising a "cumulative deficit of around £10 million over the past four years" with its operating performance.

UCU said that with a history of poor leadership and job losses, it was time for Gary Warke to step down. Regional official Julie Kelley told TES: 'Staff at Hull College have been concerned about leadership failings at the college for some time and following the report from the FE Commissioner, we feel the time has come for Mr Warke to stand down.'


East Manchester "super college" plans scrapped

Plans to merge Oldham, Tameside and Stockport colleges have been scrapped. The merger is understood to have been called off by the FE Commissioner after Stockport College was given the bottom grade of "inadequate" by Ofsted in November. It has also had long-term financial difficulties. Oldham and Tameside colleges are both rated as "requires improvement", the second-bottom grade, by the education watchdog.
UCU regional official Martyn Moss said: 'UCU has consistently questioned the viability of the proposed merger. We believe the public has a right to know how much taxpayers' money has been spent on consultancy fees in the development of the merger since it was first announced.'


Last updated: 17 February 2017