Posts Tagged ‘teaching strikes’

Tuesday News Review

28/06/2011, 06:37:15 AM

University challenge

Universities could be handed over to private firms and run for profit under plans to be announced this week. The Government wants to let companies set up or take over existing colleges and offer student loans. The plans are included in Universities Minister David Willetts’s delayed universities white paper. But a report by the Government-funded Higher Education Funding Council for England warned businesses would be able to cherry-pick the most profitable courses. And it added there was no guarantee they would work to widen the participation of less-profitable students. Sally Hunt of the University and College Union said: “Millions of students face being ripped off by operators whose main interest is their own profits, not education.” – Daily Mirror

Ministers say their plans will sustain the country’s world class universities and improve higher education opportunities. They also argue the proposals – which are linked to those that will triple tuition fees to £9,000 pounds by 2012 – will increase social mobility. As part of the changes, universities will be forced to provide potential students with more information about their entry requirements, job prospects and the quality of teaching. Popular universities will be able to accept any student achieving at least two A grades and a B at A-level – in a move aimed at increasing access and helping the institutions grow. Universities and higher education colleges charging low fees could also be allowed to increase their numbers. It is hoped that would encourage the more expensive establishments to reduce what they charge. And the White Paper is also likely to contain measures to boost the powers of the regulator, the Office for Fair Access (Offa). The watchdog is tasked with ensuring universities do not price out poorer students with higher fees. But the University and College Union warned against reforms that would allow the expansion of private universities, which are not subject to the cap on numbers. – Sky News

Strike breakers

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) has written to schools throughout England and Wales telling them they could be in breach of employment law and health and safety regulations if they keep schools open during the pensions-related dispute. The letter emerged as Downing Street yesterday backed plans for parents to staff classrooms during the walkout, with ministers appearing increasingly determined to face down militant trade unions. David Cameron will make a last-ditch direct appeal to public sector workers today not to go on strike on Thursday, insisting their current pension arrangements are “not fair to the taxpayer”. The Prime Minister will address the Local Government Association’s annual conference to warn council workers and teachers that the “situation is unsustainable” and that they must accept changes. Downing Street sources said that Mr Cameron would be “robust” but would attempt to set out a “fair argument” over why reform of pensions was essential. – Daily Telegraph

People support calls for a change in the law to ban strikes by public sector workers if there is a low turnout in strike ballots, according to a survey for The Independent. They also believe that trade unions will fail to win public sympathy if they carry out their threat to stage co-ordinated strikes in their battle over pensions. Unions vowed last night to press ahead with a strike by up to 750,000 public employees on Thursday, after talks with ministers ended without a last-minute breakthrough. The survey by ComRes found that, by a margin of 50 per cent to 32 per cent, people agreed that the Government should ban public sector strikes unless there has been a turnout of at least 50 per cent in the ballot to approve the industrial action. The finding will increase the pressure on ministers to bring in a legal minimum turnout – an idea favoured by the London Mayor, Boris Johnson, the Confederation of British Industry and some Tory ministers and backbenchers. – the Independent

Fox brings top brass into line

Senior members of the military will lose their jobs if they allow costs to get out of control and fail to manage budgets, under radical reforms to the Ministry of Defence published on Monday. The heads of the army, Royal Navy and RAF will be held accountable as never before, and will also be responsible for making significant cuts to the numbers of officers in their ranks. All three services have become overladen with top brass, according to a report by Lord Levene, chairman of Lloyd’s of London. His proposals have been accepted wholesale by the coalition government, with the defence secretary, Liam Fox, saying the MoD had been bedevilled by poor management. In his 84-page report, Levene noted that inter-service rivalry had added to the problems and recommended the creation of a new joint forces command, headed by a high-ranked military commander, as one way of breaking down the barriers between them. In one startling admission, Levene said the MoD and military chiefs often showed a disregard for costs. “Finance and the need for affordability are not regarded as sufficiently important throughout the organisation,” he said, adding that service chiefs who failed to bring in projects on time and within budget should face the axe.” – the Guardian

What Mrs Bone wants, Mrs Bone gets

Conservative MP Peter Bone, claimed that his wife, Mrs Bone, had been singing the praises of the Prime Minister because the UK would not be involved in the Greek bail-out. He then sought assurances from Mr Cameron on behalf of Mrs Bone, that the UK would not be required to participate in a bail-out before 2013, saying that “she would be very happy if he could give her that undertaking”. Mr Cameron replied that he felt that a very big part of his life “was giving pleasure to Mrs Bone.” And added that on this occasion “he could only go so far”. In March, the Tory MP demanded David Cameron call for a referendum about whether the UK should remain in the EU, saying it would please, among others, Mrs Bone. – Daily Telegraph

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