weekly digest by lindash

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									weekly digest
6th May 2009

Pay negotiations continued…

Employers and Unions are firmly setting out their stalls this week as the fallout from UCU‟s industrial action ballot hits the HE sector. The timing, during still early stages of national pay negotiations, and the reasoning behind the suggested action has been questioned by UCEA, who accuse the UCU of simply aiming to disrupt the sector and its students by planning the strike action before the employers pay offer had even been communicated. From the latest UCU press release yesterday it seems that they have gone terribly quiet on the 8% pay increase and have shifted to the idea that all HEIs no matter what their financial situation and mission should promise not to cut jobs, and emphasising the need for a job security agreement. The UCEA bulletin says that “attempts by UCU to publicise this ballot on „job protection‟ remain confusing to the sector as this is primarily a ballot about pay. Employers recognise that, in comparison to the exceptional pay awards under the 2006-09 pay agreement and UCU‟s 8% pay claim, that 0.3% is a modest pay offer. But it is realistic and responsible; underpinned by a careful sector-wide analysis of what is affordable.” Members of UCU are urged by all concerned to take part in the ballot. As an aside, the National Negotiations Timeline is a great little page if you need to catch up on the history of the pay negotiations.

MPs give the Chancellor a reality check

There is plenty in the news today about the recession, following the National Institute of Economic and Social Research announcement that the country‟s GDP could contract this year by 4.3% before growing 0.9% in 2010. The BBC reports that it means the recession could be the worst since the early 1930s. Stephanie Flanders gives a good all-round view of this on her blog on the BBC website – well worth a quick read. And then there‟s the news of the Treasury select committee – mostly Labour MPs – questioning the economic forecasts behind this year‟s budget and claiming that they are „unrealistic‟, the FT reports. The committee “questioned the assumption that the UK economy would start to grow again by the end of this year, and quickly rebound to a strong level of growth that would be maintained for many years”. Ben Bernanke, head of the US central bank is a bit more positive about the prospects for the US over the next few years.

Barclays

It‟s clearly not doom and gloom for everyone these days however. Despite the optimistic growth forecasts, house prices falling, and David Cameron having his bicycle stolen yet again, Barclays are expected to announce good first-quarter results tomorrow, according to The Economist. Apparently the British bank have benefited substantially from keeping clear of relying on government guarantees, and also have their good fortune in missing out in the bidding for ABN

AMRO to thank for their comparatively strong position. BUFDG members should have all had a communication from Barclays National Education Manager assuring the sector that the Bank is still very much in the market for HE business. If you have not had a copy of the letter, please contact Karel who will supply one.

Third-stream funding report

The phrase „how long is a piece of string‟ comes to mind again – this time it‟s a report to HEFCE by Public and Corporate Economic Consultants (PACEC) and the Centre for Business Research at the University of Cambridge on the extent to which third-stream funding has, directly or indirectly, benefited the economy. The report, called „Evaluation of the effectiveness and role of HEFCE/OSI third stream funding‟ includes some interesting sections on culture change within HEIs, knowledge exchange, and the role of HEIs as a networking hub for many different interacting organisations. The summary (including a fantastic new word) reads: “There has been considerable progress over the first 10 years of funding specifically for third stream activity. There is strong evidence of additionality in terms of activity funded by the Higher Education Innovation Fund and progress by all HEIs in embedding knowledge transfer within their mission.”

£25m awarded to green HEIs

HEFCE announced this week that £25m is to be distributed amongst 44 HEIs as part of the Revolving Green Fund, a partnership fund between Salix Finance and HEFCE themselves. The funding has been split into two strands, one for continual smaller enterprises and another for large, one-off projects. The three universities to benefit from the £10m allocated for the large, transformational projects are Harper Adams, UEA, and Lancaster. You can find full details of the fund and its beneficiaries on the HEFCE website. For a green energy story with less of a happy ending, you could try this from the FT, who report that corruption and mafia involvement in renewable power in Sicily is resulting in large numbers of „frozen‟ wind farms.

RAE – what will we talk about without it?

It‟s a question we‟ve all been asking, and I suppose currently in the process of answering (Pay negotiations possibly?). Jonathan Wolff in his monthly article in the Guardian doesn‟t really answer the question directly, but does ponder RAE and other ways of measuring and funding research excellence. Perhaps the main bone he has to pick with the RAE system is that the consequences are far greater and wide-reaching for those who didn‟t do as well as expected. “A few departments, having done badly, are now under threat of closure. It is a particularly inept sort of competition that has no real winners but some very significant losers.”

Tax Conference

Well there are only 2 places remaining for this year‟s BUFDG Tax Conference. It‟s on the 9 th and 10th of June and really is the event of the year for all things tax related. The previous two places were booked overnight so please don‟t hesitate if you want to come along. You can book as usual on the events page.

This and That
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Jon Moon‟s course on Words in Tables may not sound exciting but it‟s a fantastic course and well worth your time and money (£15, honestly…) to learn a few key things that will prove useful for most of your working life. You can find more details and book here. There are just four places remaining on the Financial Reporting Review course in London on the 19th May. Booking cut off is tomorrow so do book for that as soon as possible if you‟d like to go. Full details as always are on the events page. Goodenough College need a Finance Manager – closing date for applications is the 15 th May. Frank Field, MP for Birkenhead turns William Wallace in his call for „servile‟ Russell Group institutions to claim their independence, the FT reports. Read his blog for more detail and radical ideas to get you thinking and maybe even reacting? It‟s great to see the Discussion Board being used so actively but still more voyeurs than participants! The invites have gone out for the Green Gown awards on the 23rd June at Imperial College London. There are further details and booking from the EAUC website. Finally, China and Russia are getting their oar in on US fiscal policy to warn against any moves by the Fed to print dollars on a large scale in order to prop up the US banking system. Surely the FT headline “If China loses faith the dollar will collapse” is just a little sensationalist though.

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