If you are a registered HEi-know user, please log in to continue.
You must be a registered HEi-know user to access Briefing Reports, stories and other information and services. Please click on the link below to find out more about HEi-know.
Alison Johns, Chief Executive of Advance HE, reviews another week in which higher education found itself in the spotlight, even when a royal funeral dominated the headlines.
Charlie Ball, Head of Higher Education Intelligence for Prospects at Jisc, reviews a week of higher education news which felt much like every other since lockdown, as new research on graduate earnings and university admissions was published.
Stephen Isherwood, chief executive of the Institute of Students Employers, reviews a week of HE news in which student accommodation, fee refunds, graduate jobs, and research funding surfaced as key issues.
Reviewing a week in which issues affecting women’s lives were in the spotlight, Sandra Booth, Director of Policy and External Relations at the Council for Higher Education Art and Design (CHEAD), sees hopeful signs of moves to address gender equality in higher education.
Commenting on a week of higher education news, Alice Gent, Policy, Research and Communications Intern, and Ruby Nightingale, Communications and Public Affairs Manager at the Sutton Trust, highlight evidence that Covid-19 is having a disproportionate impact on students and graduates from poorer backgrounds.
Rachel Hewitt, Director of Policy and Advocacy for the Higher Education Policy Institute, sees signs of a clearer route out of the Covid crisis beginning to emerge for higher education.
Ross Renton, Principal of ARU Peterborough, questions ministers’ approach to defending free speech on campus, but welcomes their efforts to outlaw essay mills.
Sixty one universities could face "widespread disruption" next month, the University and College Union has warned, after its members overwhelmingly backed industrial action in a row over potential changes to their pensions in the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS).
Overall, 88 per cent of UCU members who voted backed strike action and 93 per cent backed action short of a strike. The turnout was 58 per cent.
Responding to the news, Universities UK said it was "disappointed" by the result of the ballot, and warned of the potential negative impact of industrial action on students.
The union’s higher education committee is meeting to discuss the results and plan an industrial action strategy should talks about the future of the scheme, scheduled to finish on Tuesday January 23, fail to deliver a solution.
UUK wants to transform the scheme from a defined benefit scheme that gives a guaranteed retirement income to a defined contribution scheme where pension income is subject to changes in the stock market.
Independent modeling of the proposals commissioned by UCU shows that a typical lecturer would lose £200,000 in retirement if the UUK plans were imposed.
The union said it hoped that the overwhelming mandate for strike action would focus universities’ minds and that more vice-chancellors would publicly pressure UUK to agree a deal. UCU said it was happy for talks to be extended in an attempt to resolve the issue without strike action. It added that two rounds of cuts in USS benefits since 2011 have already left USS members with pensions worth less than those of school teachers and academics in the sector’s other pension scheme, the Teachers’ Pension Scheme.
UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: "UCU members have made it quite clear that they are prepared to take sustained strike action to defend their pensions. USS already offers worse benefits than other schemes available in universities, and UUK’s proposals would make matters worse. I hope more vice-chancellors will pressure their negotiators to work with us to resolve the matter without strike action."
A spokesperson for UUK said: “The prospect of industrial action at 61 out of the 68 higher education institutions balloted by UCU is disappointing as talks between employers and the union on USS pension reform continue. A solution to the significant funding challenges facing USS needs to be found. UUK’s priority is to put USS on a secure and sustainable footing while offering attractive, market-leading pensions – the very best that can be afforded by both employers and employees.
“We should be under no illusion, this is not a problem that will go away if ignored. To retain the status quo would only serve interests in the short term. Without reform now, universities will likely be forced to divert funding allocated from research and teaching to fill a pensions funding gap. The option of no reform is a dangerous gamble. It is a risk that employers cannot take.
“If industrial action takes place it could cause disruption to students at some universities. We hope that this can be avoided through further talks with UCU and that union members carefully consider the possible impact on students of taking industrial action.”
Universities where UCU members have backed industrial action:
Birkbeck College, University of London
City, University of London
Courtauld Institute of Art
East Anglia University
Goldsmiths, University of London
Imperial College London
Institute of Education
King's College London
Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine
London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
Oxford, University of
Queen Mary, University of London
Queen’s University Belfast
Royal Holloway, University of London
Royal Veterinary College, University of London
Senate House, University of London
SOAS, University of London
St Andrews University
University College London
University of the Highlands and Islands
University of Wales
University of Warwick
University of York
© 2013 Media FHE, all rights reserved