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Week in news: 27 January 2017

MPs take evidence on the impact of Brexit on higher education

There is real concern about the damage being done to higher education by Brexit, but also from government rhetoric on immigration, UCU general secretary Sally Hunt told an influential group of MPs on Wednesday.

The Guardian reported that, giving evidence to the education select committee on a session looking at Brexit's impact on higher education, Sally said she felt that too often higher education policy was being made in the Home Office, rather than the Department for Education, with "disastrous consequences".

The Independent said that Sally had said that instead of trying to pass the responsibility onto other countries yet to offer reciprocal deals, the Prime Minister should "act now to reassure the thousands of EU staff working in UK universities that they will be able to remain in the country".

Sally touched on a wide range of subjects covered in the union's submission to the committee. She also referenced recent polling from YouGov for UCU that revealed that academics felt Brexit was a serious threat to UK higher education.


UCU criticises government's "gimmicky" industrial strategy

The government launched a new industrial strategy through the Sunday papers and then officially on Monday morning. This rather haphazard approach meant that ministers tasked with explaining the strategy on the Sunday morning political programmes were not fully up to speed. The much trumpeted £170m for new institutes of technology was soon torn apart by media commentators and dismissed by Sally Hunt in a piece for FE Week as the equivalent of "10 misfiring rockets or half a week on Boris's Brexit bus". She said at less than £20m a region, the people most likely to be rubbing their hands were the brand consultants and sign writers.

Speaking to the BBC, Sally said £170m was a "drop in the ocean" and the institutes of technology "another set of gimmicks". In the Guardian, Sally dismissed the initiative as a "relaunched skills strategy" and said it would do nothing to solve the funding crisis in further education. She said that if government wanted to support technical education it should invest in further education colleges, which desperately need thousands more teachers."


King's uses controversial Prevent guidelines to sanction email monitoring

The Guardian revealed this week that King's College London has been criticised for warning students and staff that their emails may be retained and monitored as part of the government's Prevent programme. The institution has introduced a warning on its email login page stating that by using the system students and staff were consenting to their emails being "monitored and recorded".

Sally Hunt said: 'Monitoring emails demonstrates another chilling effect that the flawed Prevent agenda has on staff and students. Universities should desist from the type of reactions that risk creating a culture of mistrust on campus and actually shutting down debate on the very topics we should be exploring.'

Last updated: 4 April 2019