News in brief

October 1, 2009

Employment tribunal

Sacking of ex-convict 'justified'

The University of Manchester was justified in sacking a research-contracts officer who failed to declare a fraud conviction, an employment tribunal has found. Andrew Young sued the university for unfair dismissal in 2008, claiming it had not asked whether he had a conviction and had failed to carry out criminal-record checks. Mr Young was convicted of theft and money laundering in 2004, served two years of a four-year sentence and was struck off the roll of solicitors. Manchester fired him after his conviction came to light. The university said that Mr Young had made statements in his job application that suggested he was a practising lawyer. He denied this. The tribunal concluded that he was "an intelligent, articulate man" but was also a "dishonest opportunist". "What the claimant did ... was to mislead and misrepresent his history with the intention of keeping the facts from the university," it said.

Student survey

Mind not the main motivation

Only one in five students say that the desire to be stretched intellectually is their main reason for going to university, a survey says. According to the National Union of Students/HSBC Student Experience Report, students in the highest socio-economic group are the most likely to view higher education as a "natural progression". Students who attend either Russell Group or 1994 Group institutions are more likely to cite the quality of teaching as the main reason for choosing a course, while students at new universities are more likely to mention that their courses lead to or are a requirement for their intended careers.

Ageism

Retirement age 'not unlawful'

The default retirement age of 65 is not unlawful, a High Court judgment on the Heyday ageism case has ruled. Several tribunal cases brought by retired academics against their universities, which were stayed pending the outcome of the case, are now likely to be withdrawn. However, presiding judge Mr Justice Blake said in his summary that there was a "compelling case", given the state of the UK economy, for considering whether a retirement age was necessary. He welcomed the Government's decision to bring forward its review of the issue to 2010.

Industrial action

UCU FE members reject pay offer

University and College Union members in English further education colleges have rejected a 1.5 per cent pay offer for 2009-10. Although Unison, GMB, Unite, Association of Teachers and Lecturers and Association for College Management members voted to accept the offer, the UCU will now ballot members for national strike action. In higher education, UCU national consultation meetings on a 0.5 per cent pay offer will continue until 2 October. Unite has already rejected the offer.

International market

Language barrier to Euro insights

The UK's higher education sector is failing to learn lessons about working with international students and staff from European universities because of its tendency to turn to English-speaking institutions for advice. At last month's Initiating European Conversations conference at the University of Bristol, Sheila Trahar, senior lecturer in education, said the sector's experience had many parallels with Europe's, but it tended to "draw on research from the other anglophone countries".

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