UCU General Secretary Jo Grady recently wrote to UK education minister Gavin Williamson MP setting out a series of actions the union was asking the UK government to carry out. UCU Scotland is maintaining regular dialogue with Richard Lochhead MSP, the minister responsible for higher education in the Scottish Government through regular briefings and meetings. We’re asking members to write to their MSPs asking them to call on the Scottish Government to take a number of actions to support Scottish higher education in these uncertain times. The draft letter is below and information on how to contact your MSPs can be found on the Scottish Parliament’s website here.
Draft letter to send to MSPs. Please personalise it as much as you wish:
I am writing as your constituent to ask for your help in providing much-needed stability for staff and students in Scottish higher education in the face of the current Covid-19 crisis.
Our universities have always been a critical part of the social and economic fabric of Scotland and will be crucial to our recovery from the current crisis. Staff in universities have already responded swiftly, shifting within a matter of days to online teaching and supporting students and stepping up vital research.
Unsurprisingly, though, the crisis is creating huge uncertainty and without urgent action from government we risk losing vital educational capacity just when it will be needed most. The sector needs a clear and coherent plan aimed at retaining capacity and maximising the positive impact that higher education can make.
My union, the University and College Union, is calling for the Scottish government to take action in the following areas:
- Underwriting higher education by committing to maintaining the income of all higher education institutions at current levels.
- Requiring institutions to work cooperatively and cross-sectorally to protect the interests of students and local communities.
- Making a public commitment to protect Scotland’s universities against closure.
- Ensure access to properly resourced lifelong learning which ensures people of all ages can access the learning they need.
- Ensuring that staff working for outsourced companies providing services to higher education institutions receive the same protections as directly employed staff.
- Protecting educational capacity by confirming that furlough arrangements will apply to all staff currently employed by universities, including those on insecure contracts, and lobbying the UK government to extend the one-year visa extension scheme being offered to NHS staff to all current visa holders.
As your constituent, I would be grateful if you could, on my behalf, urge the Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science to adopt these recommendations and take action to protect our universities.
I look forward to hearing from you.