News in Brief

May 13, 2010


Pay offer creeps up, but no cigar

Higher education employers have upped their pay offer for next year from 0.25 per cent to 0.4 per cent. The Universities and Colleges Employers Association met with the five higher education unions on 5 May, but there was no agreement on a deal. The unions made a claim for a 4 per cent pay rise in 2010-11. In addition to the pay negotiations, the unions also wanted a national agreement on job security and redundancy avoidance - but Ucea said it had no mandate from its members for such a deal. The two sides have scheduled an additional meeting for 28 May, after using up the three originally scheduled under the Joint Negotiating Committee for Higher Education Staff. The unions also indicated that they planned to step up their campaign for improvements in pay and against job cuts, and asked branches to participate in a UK-wide "day of dissent". This could involve lunchtime protests and the leafleting of students.


Wales withdraws Jisc capital cash

The Higher Education Funding Council for Wales has withdrawn its support for the Joint Information Systems Committee's UK-wide capital fund due to scarce public funds for the academy. The decision means that although universities in Wales can still make use of Jisc services, including the JANET computer network, they can no longer bid for new money from its capital fund. Jisc's core funding comes from recurrent funding council grants, but each council until now also provided additional capital funding. Universities bid for the cash to run technology and IT projects to support the sector. Explaining the HEFCW's withdrawal from all unallocated capital funding for Jisc for 2010-11, a spokeswoman for the body said: "Given the financial pressure facing the sector, we believe these unallocated funds would be better distributed across the sector, rather than allocating them to a small number of institutions (through Jisc)." In response, the committee told university staff in Wales to stop working on new bids for its cash. "Welsh universities can still participate as project partners in capital-funded bids led by English universities, but are no longer eligible to lead a bid," Jisc says in a statement.

Knowledge transfer

Scholars vouch for vouchers

Regional trials of the Innovation Vouchers scheme, a project aimed at encouraging small businesses to engage with universities by buying their time and expertise with vouchers, have been deemed a success. Academics surveyed anonymously after taking part in the pilots declared widespread support for the vouchers, despite criticising the amount of red tape involved. The survey, carried out by the Association for University Research and Industry Links, states that 87 per cent of respondents believe vouchers have led to new relationships with small businesses, and 72 per cent welcome the scheme's regional focus. However, respondents also say it was blighted by a "terrible marketing campaign", "haphazard distribution of vouchers" and "unnecessary bureaucracy".


On 29 April, we reported the appointment of Sue White as professor of social work (children and families) at the University of Birmingham. The story's accompanying photograph showed a different Sue White, associate dean of the School of Applied Sciences at Cranfield University. Apologies for the error.


Last week, Times Higher Education reported on employers' plans to raise the retirement age to 68 as part of a raft of proposed changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme.

Responding online, "academic" says: "Most academics that I know would love to work until 68. Everyone in my department who has retired has continued to do research for no pay and either to teach for free for two years in exchange for a shared office or for a nominal course fee. Working until 68 will mean that we get paid for what we would all want to do anyway."


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