News in brief

May 20, 2010

Graduate employment

Too many gaps to fill

Employers fear there will not be enough graduates and skilled workers to fill the "high-level jobs" created as the economy recovers from the recession, the CBI has said. The warning is made in a CBI study, Ready to Grow: Business Priorities for Education and Skills, which is based on a survey of 694 employers. In all, 51 per cent of those polled were concerned that they would soon be unable to fill their graduate posts. The survey also says that the majority of businesses polled (66 per cent) have links with universities; 40 per cent partner them for research; and 33 per cent provide resources to institutions. However, only per cent use universities as external training providers, and say they want the government to encourage universities to provide more workforce training. Richard Lambert, director-general of the CBI, said: "It is essential that publicly funded workforce training delivers economically valuable skills."

Pensions

Members consider USS reforms

Union members are being asked to vote on proposed changes to the main higher education pension scheme, with the possibility of industrial action mooted. As Times Higher Education has reported, employers want to scrap final-salary pensions for new entrants to the Universities Superannuation Scheme and raise the pension age to 68. However, the proposals, tabled after an 18-month review, clashed with those made by members' representatives, resulting in deadlock when the parties met this month. Last week, the University and College Union called a ballot on the proposals, the results of which will be announced at its annual congress later this month. The scheme has about 120,000 active members - mainly academic and academic-related staff - and at 31 March 2010 a deficit of £3 billion.

Knowledge transfer

Let's be clear: we can help

The academy must "better inform" businesses about how it can help them to succeed, a report suggests. Absorbing Research, commissioned by Research Councils UK from the Council for Industry and Higher Education, focuses on how universities should collaborate with business to boost the economic impact of academic work. It explores how university-business collaborations can contribute to company profits. "Clearly companies are motivated by the profitable use of university research, but ... there is a need to better inform them about the role universities can have," it says. The study, published this week, also calls for financial support to encourage "appropriate behaviour" among academics, such as cross-sector research. But Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, said that research should not be influenced by the "fads and fashions of big business".

Redundancies

Dispute ends as UCL retreats

Union members have ended a dispute with University College London after its management backed down over plans for compulsory redundancies. Members of the University and College Union had voted to strike over UCL's proposals to lay off academics in its Faculty of Life Sciences. But the UCU suspended the action when the university said there were likely to be no compulsory redundancies. It officially ended the dispute on 13 May when UCL confirmed it would not set up a redundancy committee to select individuals for the axe.

ONLINE NOW

Times Higher Education reported online the appointment of David Willetts as universities and science minister. The news provoked debate among readers.

Alan Ryan says: "I am not at all sure that I shall agree with what Mr Willetts proposes for higher education. But it is a relief to have someone in charge who understands what it is about and has the intelligence and experience to deal with the complexity of the issues involved. Since the arrival of David Blunkett (as education and employment secretary) in 1997, we have been terribly short-changed."

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