News in Brief

May 6, 2010

Living wage

A capital campaign

A coalition of faith-based organisations, unions and other community groups is to target higher education in its latest drive to persuade employers to pay their cleaners and other staff a living wage. London Citizens' campaign, which launches this month, will ask universities in the capital to pay staff, including contract workers, at least £7.60 per hour rather than the statutory minimum of £5.80. A spokesman for the group said that the campaign would target figures such as Sir Andrew Likierman, dean of the London Business School, because he is also a non-executive director of Barclays Bank, which has agreed to pay the living wage. A spokeswoman for the business school said that its cleaning, catering and security work was contracted out. "As a responsible employer, we are committed to paying the living wage to all our (directly employed) employees," she said. The Institute of Education, University of London, which is also on the campaign's list of targets, said it would phase in the living wage for all staff, including agency workers, by August 2012.

Gender equality

Academy can tackle wage gap

Higher education institutions have more power to tackle gender pay inequality than they think, according to the Equality Challenge Unit. The ECU, higher education's equality body, has launched a step-by-step resource for institutions on conducting equal pay reviews, titled Promoting equality in pay. The national pay agreement includes a strong recommendation that institutions undertake an equal pay review within 12 months of the introduction of their post-framework pay structures, and periodically thereafter. Levi Pay, interim policy director at the ECU, said: "We need to start understanding the role that higher education institutions, individual managers and individual selection panels play in entrenching or narrowing the gap."

Scotland

Support for economic priorities

The Scottish Funding Council has committed more than £8 million from its Horizon Fund to pay for programmes that focus university and business research on problems facing key sectors of the Scottish economy. The funding has been allocated to projects in the life sciences, the creative industries, energy, financial services and food and drink. Mike Russell, Scottish National Party MSP for the South of Scotland and Cabinet secretary for education and lifelong learning, said the "economic benefits of the projects that will benefit from this funding are beyond doubt". The Horizon Fund, which supports knowledge-transfer and capital projects, has come under fire from some in the academy, who have accused it of allocating cash in an "opaque" manner.

Public spending

Celtic fringe benefits

The gap in public funding levels between England and the devolved nations, including the pot for higher education, could widen as a result of spending cuts across the UK. The claim is made in a report published by the Institute for Public Policy Research think tank, Devolution in a Downturn. The study argues that the budgets in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will be sheltered from the worst of the cuts that befall England because their block grants are based on health and education funding, which both the Labour and Conservative parties have pledged to protect.

ONLINE NOW

Last week, Times Higher Education reported that Universities UK had advised members not to apply for the UK Border Agency's "highly trusted sponsor" scheme. To qualify for the scheme, which is part of a tightening of student-immigration rules, sponsors must ensure that no more than 3 per cent of international students fail to complete their courses.

Commenting online, Mac says that the pass rate required is antithetical to standards: "Any institution applying should be immediately referred to the Quality Assurance Agency."

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