News in brief

October 11, 2012

Postgraduate teacher training

Labour's top-down reward scheme

A Labour government would pay off part of high-flying students' tuition fees in exchange for a commitment to work as teachers in deprived areas. In his speech to Labour's annual conference in Manchester, Stephen Twigg, the shadow education secretary, attacked what he claimed were the coalition's "ridiculous" plans to cut salaries for teachers working in poorer regions. "Instead I want to look at ideas like helping pay back your tuition fees, if you got to teach in a poorer area," he said. Mr Twigg added that he wanted to see "teaching as an elite profession for top graduates", and he hoped to double the number of recruits to the Teach First programme - which places high-performing graduates in schools - so it became one of the main routes into teaching.

Quality assurance

Varying confidence in Aberystwyth

The Quality Assurance Agency has "limited confidence" in Aberystwyth University's handling of certain partnerships with other institutions. A QAA report says the university does not have a "sound framework" for managing collaborative provision, and is "not operating with appropriate regard to national guidance". But the institutional review, carried out in April and May, expresses "confidence" in academic standards of awards and quality of learning opportunities at Aberystwyth. The university offers three awards via UK partners, and has eight partnership agreements with overseas institutions. Aberystwyth pro vice-chancellor John Grattan said it looked forward to showing its "robust processes for collaborative activity".

Part-time students

Office payoff for classroom effort

Part-time students gain higher pay, new skills and greater responsibilities in the workplace even while they are studying, a new survey has found. Research commissioned by the Higher Education Careers Services Unit and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills found that 69 per cent of students said their part-time undergraduate course had boosted their confidence at work and their job performance. Half said they were taking on more responsibilities, while 29 per cent said they received a pay increase, and 28 per cent a promotion. The study was based on interviews with 261 students in 2010-11, three years after starting their degrees. It is part of the wider Futuretrack study monitoring the progress of more than 50,000 students who entered higher education in 2006. The final report will be published next month.

National pay deal

Narrow Unison margin for strike

Members of Unison have narrowly voted in favour of industrial action over a national pay offer for higher education workers of just 1 per cent. The union, which represents support staff such as registrars, librarians, administrators and technicians, asked its higher education members whether they would be prepared to strike against the proposed pay deal for 2012-13. Among those taking part in the ballot, a total of 3,432 (50.3 per cent) voted for action, while 3,385 voted against (49.7 per cent) - a margin of just 47 votes. Unison was due to consider its next steps at a meeting this week. Results from ballots of four other unions involved in higher education - the University and College Union, Unite, GMB and the Educational Institute of Scotland - were also scheduled to be announced this week.

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Last week's report that Sir James Dyson said he had persuaded David Cameron to boost postgraduate salaries in science and engineering to as much as £40,000 raised eyebrows. Someone calling themselves "Are they serious?" wrote: "Really? Pay postgraduates more than lecturers - are they kidding?" Others welcomed discussion of low pay for PhD students but cast doubt on the figures. Increasing salaries made a PhD more appealing, said one, adding: "Do we want PhD students who have the desire and motivation to undertake PhD research, or do we want to try to turn the best undergraduates into PhD students regardless of their motives?"

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