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higher education policy

National Student Survey – UCU supports NUS boycott

At our AGM this week, members of Bath UCU gave unanimous support to Bath Students’ Union which has joined the growing move to boycott the National Student Survey (NSS). The background is laid out below in the branch motion and a message from our General Secretary. Branch Officers will now invite Officers of the SU to discuss how members of Bath UCU can best support the student boycott.

UCU has prepared resources, including posters and an FAQ for members. These are available from the national union website.

Bath UCU AGM 2016 – Motion 2: TEF and NSS [Passed]

In agreement with national UCU policy on supporting NUS opposition to the TEF and NSS, the local association offers its full support to Bath SU in its policy of joining twenty other students’ unions in supporting a boycott of NSS and the TEF. These measures are detrimental to higher education and staff and students are united in opposition to them. We encourage UCU members to support Bath SU in practical measures to end TEF and NSS and to take part in national action in support of these aims.

Message to members from Sally Hunt, UCU General Secretary

As many of you will be aware our ally the National Union of Students (NUS) has called a boycott of the National Student Survey (NSS). The boycott covers all institutions where NSS is distributed and includes higher education (HE) courses that take place within further education (FE) institutions. The NUS boycott will begin in some institutions from 6 January 2017.

The NUS boycott is in furtherance of their policy that the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), which itself uses NSS data, should be decoupled by the government from any increases in tuition fees.

Like UCU, NUS has a long standing policy of raising concerns about the NSS both in terms of its positioning of students as passive customers and in its use for internal performance management.

UCU is working closely with NUS, reflecting our longstanding relationship. In line with our own policies we will give full support, within the law, to NUS’s campaign. I have agreed a joint statement with Malia Bouattia the president of NUS

The practicality of how and when the boycott is to be implemented may differ between student unions. UCU and NUS have therefore agreed that our branches and local unions should seek to reach a joint position on the campaign locally in order to maximise support.

We are working closely with NUS on materials both for students and staff in support of our joint work and these will be available for download in this Friday’s campaigns update email.

You can view the NUS campaign page here.

The National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts have posted a further explanation of the NSS boycott strategy on their website.

Higher Education and Research Bill – contact your MP before 19 July

The Government is rushing the HE Bill through to its Second Reading in the House of Commons.

The Second Reading has been called, at very short notice, for Tuesday 19 July.

The decision to rush this Bill through its Parliamentary stages is despite the current political turmoil created by Brexit, and the economic uncertainty facing the HE sector as a whole. Our analysis is that the HE Bill will compound, rather than solve the Brexit problems facing universities.

Urgent action: Write to your MP

Notes for lobbying your MP

Political risks of the Higher Education and Research Bill

(more…)

University of Bath response to HE Green Paper

Senate has agreed a response to the controversial HE Green Paper, which includes the proposal to introduce a Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF).

TEF: Bath and Bristol UCU branches oppose new Government push to privatise HE

Invitation: From REF to TEF: On the Government’s Plans for Higher Education, Thursday, 21st January 2016, 17:00-18:30, Old Council Chamber, Wills Memorial Building

Dear Bath UCU Member,

Bristol UCU invites you to From REF to TEF: On the Government’s Plans for Higher Education, a panel discussion and Q&A on the future of Higher Education in the wake of the government’s recent proposals.

Tickets

From REF to TEF provides a space to debate this direction of travel. What exactly do the Green Paper and coming White Paper mean for the notion of a University? What is to be done in the face of Jo Johnson’s ‘reform’ agenda?

Panellists include
• Sorana Vieru (NUS Vice President, Higher Education)
• Harriet Bradley (UWE and UCU NEC and HEC)
• Jessica Patterson, (PGR Rep, NCAFC)
• Tom Hickey (University of Brighton)

 

Statement from UCU branches at Universities of Bath and Bristol

We endorse comments circulated to branches in the UCU briefing on the Green Paper (November 2015).  However, we call on the HEC at its meeting on 13 January to make a clear statement of opposition to the Teaching Excellence Framework and the role it is intended to play in the further privatisation of higher education.  With HEFCE teaching grant now reduced to 5% of total HE income, we call on the HEC to respond to the consultation by calling for an increase in public spending on university teaching as the only way to guarantee teaching excellence. (more…)

Students and graduates hit hard by budget changes

Students from the poorest families will leave university owing “substantially more” to the government than their richer peers, warns analysis of changes to student funding in the budget released today.  UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: ‘the government has created a situation where the poorest students that aspire to university will have to take on much larger debts and be hit with bigger annual repayments once they graduate.”

Bath Vice Chancellor Glynis Breakwell has publicly expressed her support for the Government’s plan to scrap maintenance grants and extend loans.   In the past she has also supported calls for increases in tuition fees.

The British Universities Directors of Finance Group adds in its recent briefing:

“In a week in which universities minister Jo Johnson confirmed the details of student support packages for 16/17, a briefing note from the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) found that the average student debt owed by graduates from poorer backgrounds could hit £53,000 following the changes to student loans outlined in the recent budget. The briefing note explains how the increase, from an average of £40,500 under the current system, will result from the moves to replace maintenance grants with loans, and freeze the loan repayment threshold.

The study also found that government finances will not be much better off in the long-term as a higher proportion of graduates from poorer backgrounds do not repay their debt in full, and so much of the extra amount lent will not be repaid. IFS estimates put the short-term reduction in national account spending at £2bn a year, but only £270million actually saved per cohort over the lifetime of the loans. There is further analysis of the figures on the BBC website and in the Times Higher.

In related news, Jeremy Corbyn MP, a candidate for the Labour leadership, has proposed to launch a policy of scrapping tuition fees altogether if he becomes Labour leader, and replacing them with grants. “

Big cuts to HE budgets

The British Universities Directors of Finance notes this week:

“The Treasury Announcement last week confirmed what many in the sector had suspected – that in England BIS has to find £450million in efficiency savings from its annual budget. It is not yet known how the savings will be found, but an article in the Times Higher suggests HEFCE could claw back some of the £4billion already allocated for 2015-16. It adds that “If the £450 million cut were to fall squarely on Hefce’s allocation to universities, it would be equivalent to roughly one-third of all teaching grants for 2015-16 (a total allocation of £1.4 billion) or a third of research funding (£1.56 billion allocation).”

The announcement comes during a week when both the OECD and the IMF expressed concern that the government was implementing too much austerity, and that it should reduce the scale and speed of the cuts.”

 

How open are university open days ?

The three unions representing staff at the university have written to Pro Vice-Chancellor (Learning and Teaching):

Dear Bernie

We will be advising prospective students who visit next Thursday’s Open Day to ask a number of questions at all the universities they are visiting before deciding which to apply to.

We thought you might want to see the kinds of questions we will be suggesting prospective students ask here and elsewhere, so that you have a chance to brief staff on how to respond to these.

  • How much of my teaching will be delivered by staff employed on zero hours and temporary contracts ?
  • What is the staff-student ratio at the university?
  • Does the University pay the Living Wage to all staff it employs, including staff on casual contracts?
  • If I take a job working at the University while I am a student will I be paid the Living Wage ?
  • Are the guides who show me around the university paid a Living Wage?
  • What is the ratio of the Vice Chancellor’s annual salary to the pay of the lowest paid members of staff?
  • What will this university do if proposed cuts to Disabled Student Allowance are implemented in 2015 ?
  • Does this university want to see tuition fees rise above their current level of £9000 a year?
  • Does this university believe that student loans should be sold to a private company?
  • What would this university do if its students had the terms and conditions of their loans changed for the worse AFTER they had started the degree programme?

on behalf of UCU, UNISON, Unite

Update:  UCU national have used our letter to produce a national leaflet for use at Open Days across the country

 

Strong support from UCU Congress for Bath moves on VC pay and tuition fees

There was overwhelming support for Bath motions at last week’s UCU Congress in Manchester. (more…)

Bath and Bath Spa staff and students unite to oppose student loan sale

fatcatlogos

 

Students and staff call on VC to act on pay and student loans

University of Bath Students Union is working with trade unions to campaign against threats to the future of the university education.   This week, students are launching a campaign against the proposed privatisation of student loans.   Bath SU has also offered its support to trade unions campaigning for fair pay.  Staff and students have put out a joint statement  calling on the VC to act now on these two threats to university education in the UK.  You can add your name to the letter below from Bath staff and students to the Vice Chancellor

STUDENTS: HOW YOU CAN SUPPORT OUR ACTION

1) Join striking staff and students with the pickets at campus entrances on Thursday
2) Email your lecturers to let them know they have your support (it means a lot to us!)
3) Come to the joint staff/student meeting on Wednesday 1.15 8W1.1 to find out more
4) Sign the open letter below
5) Tell your friends! Share this open letter and bring people along to the meeting on Wednesday and strike protests on Thursday

 

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