News in brief

February 2, 2012

UCL 'no confidence' vote

Union cries foul in defeat

A motion of no confidence in University College London's provost Malcolm Grant tabled by the institution's students' union has been defeated. Students called for the vote in protest at Professor Grant's appointment as chairman of the NHS commissioning board, claiming he has a "track record of actively undermining public services and public funding". UCL management warned that the move could have a "significant impact on our approach to future investment". But the motion was rejected by students, it was announced on 26 January. A total of 1,699 said they had confidence in Professor Grant; 1,185 said they did not. There were 391 abstentions. A university spokesman said: "UCL welcomes the outcome of the vote...Malcolm Grant's track record of success in leading UCL speaks for itself." However, the motion's organisers have cried foul, claiming a senior university manager sent emails to all UCL students "singing Grant's praises".

Higher tuition fees

Commission to track impact

An independent commission has been set up to see if higher tuition fees are deterring poorer students from applying to university. The four-person panel, unveiled last week, will produce a series of reports to assess the effect of almost trebling maximum tuition fees to £9,000 a year from this autumn. Chaired by former Observer editor Will Hutton, principal of Hertford College, Oxford, the commission also includes Sutton Trust chairman Sir Peter Lampl, Stephen Machin, professor of economics at University College London, and The Times journalist Libby Purves, who presents the BBC Radio 4 education programme The Learning Curve. Supported by the Sutton Trust, it will track the impact of higher fees at English universities and produce three reports a year over the next three years.

Pensions dispute

Call for more strike action

The University and College Union is moving towards another strike in newer universities over lecturers' pensions. Members of the union's national executive committee, many of them from the UCU Left, overturned the plans of general secretary Sally Hunt weeks before the Left tries to unseat her in a leadership election. Ms Hunt had proposed that the UCU ballot its members on the government's latest offer on the Teachers' Pension Scheme, which includes academics in post-1992 universities. But at a meeting of the union's NEC, members voted for a motion postponing any ballot. A UCU spokesman said the motion also "commits the union to reject the government's offer, name a day of national strike action for 1 March...and further regional strike days during February". The move puts the UCU at the forefront of the push for further strikes.

Graduate prospects

As salaries rise, vacancies fall

Graduate starting salaries will rise this year, but the number of vacancies available will fall, according to the Association of Graduate Recruiters. The organisation's Graduate Recruitment Survey, published last week, predicts that graduate salaries will rise by 4 per cent in 2012 but that the number of jobs will decline by 1.2 per cent. The highest salaries will continue to be found in investment banking (£38,250), followed by law (£37,000). The predicted fall in the number of jobs comes after a 1.7 per cent rise last year. However, the report says some sectors, including construction and IT, are planning to increase their recruitment this year.


Last week's report on The Open University's decision to end its use of associate lecturers based in Continental Europe provoked a response from readers. One writes: "The Open University has tried to promote itself as a global distance learning organisation, yet the present move proves its lack of serious commitment to maintaining a foothold outside the UK...The great concern is that this is just the beginning of a vast number of changes to the way in which the business operates...[We] can no longer call it an institution with student provision as its primary concern. Profit is the driving force."

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