News in brief – 21 May 2015

May 21, 2015

Salary negotiations
Final pay offer on the table

Employers have made a final offer of a 1 per cent pay increase for university staff next year, with an additional rise for the lowest-paid set to ensure that most employees get the “living wage”. Under the offer, announced by the Universities and Colleges Employers’ Association after the last negotiating meeting on 12 May, the lowest eight points of the pay spine would be increased by up to 2.65 per cent. On the basis of a standard 35-hours-a-week contract, this would ensure that all workers would be paid the living wage, which stands at £9.15 an hour in London, and £7.85 in the rest of the UK. However, a small number of institutions organise their contracts, and therefore their pay, differently. The offer of 1 per cent for the rest of the pay spine represents a small advance on the original proposal for 2015-16 of 0.9 per cent. The University and College Union – which had described the previous 0.9 per cent offer as “disappointing” – said the offer would be discussed at its conference, due to take place from 23 to 25 May.

Complaints body
Ombudsman steps down

The higher education ombudsman is to step down from the role next year. Rob Behrens, who has been chief executive of the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education since 2008, will leave the complaints handling body in spring 2016 having serving two terms of office – the maximum allowed by the OIA. Mr Behrens said there was still much to achieve in his final year in office, including incorporating 500 new members into the OIA as a result of the Consumer Rights Act 2015, a move that “heralds a new, exciting era” for the body, he said. Ram Gidoomal, who chairs the OIA’s board, said Mr Behrens had been “an outstanding leader who has won the respect and trust of his colleagues, students and universities alike”. The recruitment process to find his successor will start next month, with interviews in the autumn.

LSE recruits ‘rock star’

The renowned economist Thomas Piketty has been appointed centennial professor at the London School of Economics. Professor Piketty, whose best-selling 2013 book Capital in the Twenty-First Century is credited with redefining the post-crash global economic debate, will join the LSE’s new International Inequalities Institute. The academic – who has been described as a “rock star economist” by the Financial Times given his global fame and influence – will teach postgraduate students and work with them on research on a part-time basis, the LSE said. The 44-year-old French economist, a professor at the Paris School of Economics and the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales was a PhD student at the LSE. He has frequently highlighted the problem of economic inequality.

Bursary increase
Scots’ boost for poorest students

Students from the poorest backgrounds are to receive more financial support under plans announced by the Scottish government. Bursaries for Scottish-domiciled university students with a household income of up to £24,000 will increase by £125 for the academic year 2015-16, education secretary Angela Constance said. They will be eligible to receive up to £7,625. In addition, the household income threshold for receiving the maximum bursary will be raised from £17,000 to £19,000 from 2016-17. Vonnie Sandlan, president-elect of NUS Scotland, said the announcement was “really welcome” but added that “we can, and must, always push ourselves to go further on tackling student poverty”.

Follow Times Higher Education on Twitter

Our story about McMaster University giving all its female academics a pay rise after finding evidence of a £2,000 gender pay gap proved popular with our Twitter followers. Fiona Adamson (@FionaAdamson) praised the policy for being “based on evidence and principle”, adding “if only more universities took this approach”. J. Bernadette Moore (@TheMooreLab) said simply “Master University for the WIN”, while David Murphy (@davidfmurphy) tweeted: “Globally @McMasterU stands out as university that values equity, a point of attraction for both women & men.”

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