University staff map out the challenges ahead

Delegates gather to debate the issues at UNISON’s higher education conference

conference delegates voting

Proper funding for the UK’s higher education system, alongside pay and protecting pensions, will be the major topics when representatives of the sector’s workforce gather in Milton Keynes for UNISON’s higher education service group conference tomorrow.

“At the start of 2020, there are key issues facing universities across the UK,”  says national secretary Jon Richards.

“We need the government to commit itself to working with and supporting the higher education system – especially as it is one of the UKs most significant sectors of the economy.”

With the UK due to leave the EU at the end of the month, “it is more important than ever that the UK workforce receives the post-16 education and training that our economy needs,” he added.

Figures from Universities UK show that the sector contributes £73bn to the economy,  with international students alone bringing in £7.3bn.

Universities face a particular challenge in England, in the wake of the Augar report into post-18 education and funding, which will be the subject of a specific debate.

As UNISON starts the process of helping to formulate a joint union pay claim for the 2020-21 academic year, delegates will debate a motion from the service group executive on the specifics of that claim, including campaigning for all universities to become accredited living wage employers, with a £10 minimum hourly wage and a consolidated pay increase of RPI inflation plus 5%.

Delegates will also look at wider issues such as how universities can work to tackle climate change, stamp out racism and promote inclusivity of LGBT+ staff and students.