News round-up: The pensions strike is over, and the OU vice-chancellor resigns

Academic staff have voted to accept an offer to reopen negotiations with employers, and the position of the OU’s vice-chancellor finally becomes untenable


Student nurses face financial hardship over loan error, says nursing body

The Guardian, 16/04/2018, Patrick Greenfield

Hundreds of student nurses whose loans and grants have been cut off or reduced because of administrative errors are facing financial hardship and in some cases may not be able to continue their studies, nurses’ leaders have warned.


UK university strike action to end after staff vote to accept offer

The Guardian, 13/04/2018, Richard Adams

The strike action that hit 65 universities across the UK this year is on hold after staff voted to accept an offer to reopen negotiations with employers over their pensions.

The ballot of 50,000 University and College Union members in higher education found a substantial majority in favour of accepting the offer, which establishes a joint committee of experts to evaluate pensions provided through the University Superannuation Scheme (USS).


The Open University gave millions of Britons a second chance. Now it needs one itself

The Observer, 14/04/2018, Will Hutton

One by one, the great institutions that bind Britain together are being allowed to fray, weaken and decline. They may do good and even vital work, but whatever their purpose – from the system of legal aid to the Open University – they are under siege. Britain might be substantially richer than it was 40 or 50 years ago but the national narrative is that organisations once energetic and growing are now unaffordable. The overriding moral imperative is to lower allegedly insupportable taxation, not to create public goods or sustain the institutions that bind.


Open University vice-chancellor resigns

BBC, 13/04/2018

Open University vice-chancellor Peter Horrocks has resigned after a vote of no confidence by academic staff.

He said he was “ready to move on” but added the OU faced “a scale of challenge that is unprecedented”.

The university, which has suffered a collapse in student numbers, aims to save £100m from its £420m annual budget by cutting courses and staff.


Student suicide increase warning

BBC, 13/04/2018, Sean Coughlan

The suicide rate among UK students is higher than among the general population of their age group, claim researchers.

The study, to be presented next month at the International Suicide Prevention Conference in New Zealand, has analysed figures for student suicides between 2007 and 2016.


Why are students faking attendance? They feel cheated by the system

The Guardian, 13/04/2018, Anonymous

My university has introduced a new method of monitoring student progress, a digital apparatus for tracking class attendance. Instead of students putting their initials on a register, they tap their ID cards on a card reader. The lecturer then navigates the university website to retrieve the tally – which is far more cumbersome than glancing at a sheet of paper. But that’s not the worst problem with the new system.


Chief executive of defunct English regulator paid £178K on early exit

Times Higher Education, 12/04/2018, John Morgan

Hefce’s Madeleine Atkins received payment in lieu of salary for remainder of contract, but declined ‘redundancy payment’


Universities urged to collaborate for fairer salaries

Financial Times, 09/04/2018, Robert Wright

A leading campaigner for women in academia has demanded that institutions collaborate to make their salary structures fairer after analysis of the gender pay gap at England’s top universities revealed vast variations. Alice Chilver, founder of When Equality, a women’s higher-education network, was speaking after figures from the Russell Group of elite universities in the UK revealed that median pay at the most unequal institution — Durham University — was 29.3 per cent lower for women.




Increasing numbers of weak A-level pupils graduating with firsts 

The Times, 05/04/2018, Nicola Woolcock

More than one in six university students with poor A levels graduated with a first-class university degree last summer, according to recent figures.

Over a quarter of all students were awarded a first and more than three-quarters attained a first or a 2:1.

Figures from the Office for Students showed that 95 per cent of entrants with three A* grades at A level graduated with a first or upper second-class degree last summer. However, 67 per cent of those with CCD grades or below at A level also achieved a first or 2:1, raising questions regarding degree grade inflation.