Higher Education E Bulletin Higher Education E Bulletin: Issue 26 – October 2007

  • Final-Salary Pensions
  • Pensions Training Course
  • Sector Needs the “Autonomy of Private Sector Entrepreneurs”
  • OECD Education at a Glance Report
  • Private College to Award Degrees
  • Soton VC tries to up its Green Credentials
  • Greening the workplace in Higher Education course
  • 14-16th November 2007
  • Union Busting Threat
  • UK University Funding
  • Universities Brought to Task on Health and Safety
  • Watch Your Step in Education – HSE courses
  • 17th Edition IEE electrician wiring regulations

Final-Salary Pensions

A recent report from Universities UK and UCEA has put into question the sustainability of the final salary pension arrangements in the sector. In particular these refer to the USS and TPS schemes. UUK’s report says that retaining a final-salary scheme would be affordable only if benefit costs did not rise too high or employee contributions rose. It also makes some suggested solutions.

Mike Robinson National Officer for Unite Amicus section Education Sector of Unite said “Although the report is only consultative it shows how UK Universities could go if the main recommendations are accepted. Unite has already told the employers association UCEA that many of the proposals are unacceptable to members. Unite will be submitting our own views once the Unite Higher Education National Industry Committee has met on the 1st November. Detrimental pension changes will be resisted by the union to the fullest extent our members are prepared to apply”.

To read the Universities UK report click here:

To read a Times Higher article about the report click here :

Pensions Training Course

Unite is also running a Training Course on Pensions for senior representatives at Quorn Grange, 88 Wood Lane Quorn, Loughborough on Thursday, 15th and Friday 16th November.

The training course will discuss the changes to Staff Superannuation Pension Scheme, Smart Pensions and the changes to Local Government Pension Schemes.

If you are interested to attend please contact Vera Titmus on Tel No 02476 554505

Sector Needs the “Autonomy of Private Sector Entrepreneurs”

The new president of Universities UK Rick Trainor was quoted in the Times Higher Education Supplement as saying that universities need the “managerial autonomy of private sector entrepreneurs” to be efficient and effective. Rick Trainor told the organisation’s annual conference last week that universities should not be treated as if they are part of the public sector and should be given “unfettered freedom to compete”.

“In my native US, even in state universities there is nothing like the degree of intervention in institutional management and in the working life of academics that we experience in this country,” Professor Trainor said.

“Universities are not part of the public sector and should not be treated as if they are… The very considerable expertise of universities needs to be fed into government policy decisions,” he added.

Professor Trainor, principal of King’s College, London , said financial health was key to universities attaining effective autonomy.

In future, he said, funding would come from an increasingly diverse range of sources, but the need for more public funding required “urgent” attention.

Mike Robinson National Officer for Education in Unite-Amicus said “The commercialisation of Higher Education may be something that some in the United Sates are in favour but in the UK the whole ethos has been towards ensuring that Government policy, student needs and employee terms and conditions recognise that education is a public right not a private equity plaything.

Perhaps Professor “Rick” Trainor should consider whether he fits in to UK higher education rather than seeking to fit UK higher education into his idea of a commercial model. After all we have been paying our taxes in the UK for a publicly funded education sector slightly longer”.

OECD Education at a Glance Report

UK universities rank below the OECD average in the proportion of funding they spend on salaries and their student-to-staff ratios are high.

The annual Education at a Glance report, published this week, shows that the UK spent only 58% of its HE budget on staff, compared with an average of 66 per cent across 27 OECD countries and 74.4 in Ireland .

When broken down however Ireland spends marginally less on non-teaching staff than the UK (25.1% to 25.7%) but significantly more on teaching staff (49.3% to 32.3% in the UK)

With a student-to-staff ratio of 18.2:1 compared with an average 15.7:1, the UK ranks 17th with Poland out of 22 countries that submitted data in this area.

The UK has a stronger showing in other aspects of higher education covered by the giant compendium of comparable national statistics, including its share of international students worldwide, where it ranks second only to the US .

But a relatively weak showing in indicators that are designed to measure widening participation and access to higher education whereas Ireland (along with Spain ) provides the most equitable access to higher education.

Ireland also had some of the fastest growth in educational attainment with in the OECD.

Private College to Award Degrees

The power to award degrees has been granted to a private, profit-making company for the first time.

The Privy Council has handed degree-awarding powers to BPP College (soon to be called change its name to BPP University College ), a legal and business training company owned by BPP Holdings plc. It will be seeking full university status in two to three years.

The college hopes to expand and directly compete with traditional state funded universities charging up to £10,000 a year for courses, planning postgraduate degrees in business, law and accounting from 2009. It estimates that the market in these areas alone is worth £800 million a year.

This follows the granting of degree-awarding powers to the College of Law , a not for-profit charity last year. US for-profit education and training company Kaplan has also said it wishes to follow suit.

National Officer Mike Robinson said “this is another blow for the principle of an equitable UK higher education system. When education becomes a business it ceases to have a value in its self and becomes just another commodity to be bought and sold.”

Soton VC tries to up its Green Credentials

Several Universities are now making noises to convince people that they are doing things to improve their green credentials on campus. For example the Vice Chancellor of Southampton earlier this month made loud noises about his new fuel-efficient car as part of a pitch to strengthen the universities environmental image.

Unite Amicus section national officer Mike Robinson said: “this is the perfect opportunity to press for negotiated environmental framework agreements with unions. If vice chancellors are serious about making environmental changes in the workplace they need to put their money where their mouth is and engage unions in making the changes where they matter. Building truly sustainable workplaces needs proper auditing and effective structural commitments not tokenism.”

Greening the workplace in Higher Education course 14-16th November 2007

Following on from Unite’s successful Greening the Workplace course last July Unite is organising another course for reps in November.

The course will look at the issues of the environment and climate change and how they can be tackled in the workplace.

If you would be interested in attending then please contact: Vera.titmus@unitetheunion.com or by phone on: 02476 227 522

Union Busting Threat

There have been recent reports of University authorities seeking to deploy 1980s style union busting practices to circumvent difficulties that they have faced engaging with trade unions.

In a recent article Jonathan Coley, partner at lawyers Pinsent Masons offered university employers advice on how to circumvent unions or undermine their clout in employment relations.

Mr Coley said that Institutions should consider establishing alternative employee relations arrangements such as a works council or a staff forum. These would offer “a real opportunity for a new direction in employee relations” and demonstrated to unions that they were not “the only show in town”.

National officer Mike Robinson said “we are taking these suggestions very seriously and urge reps to get in contact with their regional office immediately if they suspect that these tactics are being used. It is clear that employers in the sector need to wake up and do more to positively work with unions rather than always seeing them as an obstacle.”

The Times Higher article is now up here too if you want to put out the link:

UK University Funding

Click on this link to read a break down of funding allocations for 2007/2008 in UK universities

Universities Brought to Task on Health and Safety

Research by The Times Higher into the Health and Safety Executive’s casework reveals that a number of universities have been told to improve their practices in recent months.

In the most serious breach of health and safety law, Salford University was fined £60,000 and ordered to pay £11,704 costs after one of its employees was seriously injured after being hit with a barrier while driving an electric vehicle on campus. When the case came to court early last year, the university was criticised by the HSE for failing to have effective preventive and control measures.

A dozen other universities have been told to improve health and safety practices including:

  • Abertay University in Dundee was found to have improperly stored liquid oxygen.
  • At Cambridge University ‘s Cavendish Laboratories the HSE’s inspectors found that there was insufficient handling training for workshop and maintenance employees.
  • Warwick University was served with three improvement notices after radioactive material went missing.

Watch Your Step in Education – HSE courses

55% of all accidents in education are caused by a slip or a trip. Last year, almost 2000 major injury slip and trip accidents in the education sector were reported to the Health and Safety Executive, 571 of which were to employees, a 5% rise on the previous year. 90% of major accidents resulted in a broken bone causing considerable personal distress and a significant amount of time away from work.

To attend the Health and Safety executives courses follow the links below.

To register an interest in attending fill in the ‘contact us’ page –

17th Edition IEE electrician wiring regulations

The latest edition of the BS7671 2008 Requirements for Electrical Installations, which is to be known as the 17th Edition is scheduled for issue on January 1st 2008 and is planned to come into effect on June 1st 2008.

Unite advises all members working in this field to make the necessary arrangements to upgrade their qualifications.

Leave a Reply