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Editorial from the supplement
Over three days in Manchester around 500 delegates from further and higher education will debate a wide range of motions and set the union’s agenda for the coming 12 months.
With so much happening in both sectors there, understandably, will be a lot of discussion about where the union heads in the future. Defending pay and pensions and combating increasing workloads and privatisation will feature highly, as will more sector-specific issues such as the prospect of loans in further education and the impact of the government’s funding reforms in higher education.
You can find out exactly what’s happening when on page 3 and check out the fringe guide on page 4 for events during lunch breaks and after official congress business is concluded each day.
This special edition of FE Week takes an in-depth look at many of the challenges facing further education staff both in the UK and abroad. UCU’s head of FE, Barry Lovejoy, kicks off proceedings on page 5 with a damning critique of government plans to introduce loans for college learners over the age of 24.
As well as providing compelling evidence of how it will destabilise the sector, he argues that FE loans will make a mockery of Nick Clegg’s recent pledge to improve social mobility in this country.
On page 6 we explore the issue of staff workloads. With congress set to discuss campaigning against punitive workloads, bullying and stress, we look at the damage currently being done to morale in the sector.
Incoming UCU vice-president, John McCormack, who has taught in further education for over 20 years, gives a frontline perspective on how staff professionalism is being eroded on page 7. As well as looking at the increasing trend of downgrading staff and cutting pay, John calls for an end to punitive lesson observations.
One of the key debates at UCU’s congress this year will focus on the direction the union takes to meet the many challenges it faces. Earlier this year the union’s general secretary, Sally Hunt, was re-elected with a increased majority, standing on a platform of reforming the union and putting far more resources into front-line services for members.
On pages 8 and 9 Sally is quizzed about what exactly her proposals, which include reducing the size of UCU’s national executive committee, would mean for the union and members and why her reforms have the backing of the vast majority of the union’s membership.
On page 10 FE Week pays a special numerical tribute to the work done by staff in colleges, adult education and offender learning, showcasing the amazing contribution they make to society and why further education is needed now more than ever.
The stringent efforts of private firms to gain greater access to UK higher education is something UCU has campaigned long and successfully against.
The government was recently forced to abandon a white paper that would have given for-profit companies, embroiled in scandals in the US, greater access to UK taxpayers’ money.
However, earlier this year it was reported that the principal of Barnfield College was considering using new powers from the 2011 Education Act to convert the college in to a private limited company.
On page 11 UCU’s head of higher education, Michael MacNeil, talks about the lessons learnt from for-profit companies’ involvement in higher education and the new dangers facing further education.
The beleaguered welfare-to-work company A4e has been in the news a lot recently.
Despite being at the centre of several fraud investigations it remains the preferred bidder to secure prison education contracts worth £30m. On page 12 we look at the huge problems caused by privatisation and re-tendering in offender learning.
On page 13 we have a special feature on the dangers facing Colombian academics and trade unionists. Last year UCU invited Dr Miguel Angel Beltran to address congress.
Dr Beltran, an academic and trade unionist, was unable to attend because he was incarcerated in a high security prison.
His crime had been to speak out against human rights abuses in Colombia; the most dangerous country in the world to be a trade unionist.
Recently re-elected vice-president of the National Union of Students, Toni Pearce, writes on page 14 about the chaos and upheaval colleges and students will face under the government’s controversial changes to the international student regulations.
She warns that as the government continues to talk tough to a domestic audience on immigration, it ignores the very real damage its proposals are doing to the economy and, particularly, further and higher education.
UCU congress sees a change in the union’s president. As one president steps down another begins their 12 months in office.
On page 15 the outgoing president, Terry Hoad (Oxford University), and the incoming president, Kathy Taylor (Newcastle College), discuss the challenges the union faces.