The work UCU will be doing over the next few months …

Jul 29th, 2015 | By | Category: News

Dear colleague,

As we approach the end of the summer term, I wanted to write to set out the work the union will be doing over the next few months.

There is no doubt that wherever you live in the UK, the election of a new Westminster government three months ago brings considerable challenges for UCU members.  I wanted to pick out just four which I think are of critical importance.

The first is the proposed Trade Union Bill which seeks to put rules in place for union industrial action ballots which do not exist in any other sphere of life.  We believe this is an attempt to weaken trade union organisation and to make it harder for UCU and others to defend members who are treated unfairly at work.  In the autumn, we will be joining our colleagues across the trade union movement to lobby against the Bill and I hope you will support your union.

The second is the ‘Prevent Duty’, recently passed under the Counter Terrorism Act.  This duty which requires colleges and universities to take active steps to ‘prevent’ students being drawn into terrorism will damage staff-student relationships, undermine academic freedom and even on its own terms will be counter productive. You can read the UCU briefing on ‘Prevent’ here.

The third is the significant changes that the government is proposing to the cost of attending university in England. These include the conversion of maintenance grants to loans for the poorest cohort of students and the proposal to allow universities who meet certain standards to charge more than the current £9,000. Although these proposals will directly affect England only, it is clear that this further encroachment of the market will have an impact on the funding of higher education (HE) in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

The fourth is the announcement by government of a fundamental review of the shape and structure of further education (FE) in England. This follows a round of savage cuts to adult education across the UK.  The government has indicated that, as has already happened in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland, it wants fewer but larger, more financially stable FE institutions in England. The review will continue over the next eighteen months and UCU will be contributing fully, making sure that our view on the importance of colleges serving their community is widely heard.

There are many other things I could have focused on in this letter, including the proposed introduction of a UK wide levy on employers to fund apprenticeships, a new teaching excellence framework for universities in England, the continued holding down of pay in both FE and HE, and of course the starving of funds from Westminster for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

However, I wanted to give you a sense about what the union will be prioritising.  Please let me know what you think is important and I hope you manage to enjoy a break this summer.

Sally Hunt
UCU general secretary


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