Professor Frances Corner, Warden of Goldsmiths, welcomes news that UCEA and UCU are to hold talks over the current round of industrial action.
It is very encouraging that talks are due to take place this week between university representatives and unions to explore issues over the current national industrial action disputes.
Discussions broke down nearly three months ago, leaving our sector in limbo, so it is only right that UCEA and UCU look to set aside differences in the name of finding shared answers. It’s also very welcome that representatives from UNISON will also be in the room.
While employees are facing ongoing challenges amid the current round of industrial action, we acknowledge and regret deeply that students are those who are being most affected in our community.
Because of this the College is calling on both parties to redouble their efforts in finding common ground through a willingness to compromise – and to do so at pace in order to find resolution as quickly as possible for the good of students.
At Goldsmiths we know from our positive experiences with our local UCU branch that by working together and talking and listening it is possible to find a mutual way forward.
As other universities and union branches have set out, the root of all these issues is higher education’s broken finances and funding. Without proper funding for all higher education – where the creative arts, humanities and social sciences are valued the same as science and engineering – there remains the significant risk that even once these issues are resolved we will encounter new challenges.
The system is broken for institutions and students. For universities, individual home tuition fees are now worth around £6,600 in real terms compared to their introduction in 2012 due to soaring inflation. For students, changes to the system mean they will start paying back borrowing earlier and longer, from when they earn £25,000 and for up to 40 years, while seeing funding falling from 44p in the pound to 19p.
While debate in universities can sometimes focus on our differences, we now issue a call for our sector representatives to find a shared position and use this as a platform to bring about positive change for everyone in higher education and in particular for students.
Our sector has been at a standstill for too long and if our representatives are willing to take a small side-step then the current dispute would likely see a leap forward.