News in brief

January 14, 2010

Remuneration

Pay deal grudgingly accepted

Higher education staff will finally be paid last year's 0.5 per cent pay rise after a union decided not to oppose the offer. The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) told the Universities and Colleges Employers Association that it had "noted" the conclusion to last year's negotiations, rather than formally accepting the offer. The rise could not be paid until all five of the UK's higher education unions withdrew their objections. GMB, the University and College Union, Unison and Unite had already chosen not to oppose the deal. Institutions will now pay out on the rise, backdated to 1 August 2009. The EIS told Ucea that its executive expressed "extreme disappointment with the lack of progress made during its recent dispute with Ucea regarding the job-security digest". Unions had wanted a formal agreement committing universities to avoiding redundancies, but Ucea said it had no mandate to do so.

Food security

Vital strategy on victuals

A new science strategy for food research has been launched by the Government's Chief Scientific Adviser, John Beddington. The UK Cross-Government Strategy for Food Research and Innovation commits to: a food-security research programme co-ordinated by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council; a Technology Strategy Board initiative worth up to £90 million over five years to fund technological research and development; and a doubling of investment in agriculture research by the Department for International Development to £80 million a year by 2013.

Legal claim

Poisoned plasterer wins payout

A plasterer who worked at what is now the University of Chester has been awarded £45,000 after developing an asbestos-related disease. The provisional settlement will allow Anthony Martin, 65, from Blacon, Cheshire, to reopen the claim at any point. Mr Martin, who struggles to breathe and walk, was exposed to asbestos while working as a trained plasterer at Chester College, and is at risk of developing the fatal cancer mesothelioma. His claim was backed by Unison. A spokeswoman for Chester said: "Any exposure to asbestos was early in his employment by what was then Chester College. At that time, comprehensive guidelines for working with the substance had yet to be established."

Quality assurance

V-c to chair joint review group

Universities UK has appointed the vice-chancellor of Sheffield Hallam University, Philip Jones, as chairman of the Quality Assurance in Higher Education System Group, a joint project set up with GuildHE, the Department for Employment and Learning and the Higher Education Funding Council for England. Its first role will be to consider the responses to the current consultation on the future of the quality assurance system and make recommendations for improvements. Its first meeting will take place next month.

Research

Boost for manufacturing

Lord Mandelson has announced a £70 million investment in manufacturing research centres funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. The centres will assist firms across the UK to develop high-tech products and underpin manufacturing growth. The first three centres will be based at the universities of Southampton, Loughborough and Brunel.

ONLINE NOW

The warning that final-salary pensions could be wound up by the Universities Superannuation Scheme, reported last week, led to a strong reaction online. While readers acknowledged that final-salary deals were being phased out elsewhere, others said a move to career-average pensions would be unacceptable.

Eduard Du Courseau said: "If we accept this after the humiliating 0.5 per cent pay increase along with the funding cuts, we're carving out a grim future. My guess is we won't ... This is the one big issue that the entire workforce will strike on."

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