15th Nov, 2018

Coventry University's 'no frills' degrees a rip-off for staff, says union

Felix Nobes 20th Dec, 2017 Updated: 21st Dec, 2017

COVENTRY University offers “no frills” degrees that maximise profit at the expense of fair pay for teachers and lecturers, a union claims.

Sally Hunt, the general secretary of the University and College Union, has recently written on the subject of ‘accelerated degrees’.

The controversy surrounding these degrees and the subsidiary services that provide them on behalf of universities focuses on how staff and lecturers are being underpaid compared to their teaching colleagues at the university.

Ms Hunt stated in a letter to The Guardian newspaper this month: “Let’s be clear about what “no frills” actually means in this context. Coventry University College, or CU Coventry, as it’s now called, charges lower prices for its three-year degrees and claims to offer students a more flexible experience.

“But if you teach at CU Coventry – a subsidiary of Coventry University – “no frills” means you get paid much less than your colleagues at the university, your teaching year is much longer, your workload heavier, and you have no access to a decent occupational pension.

“About 40 per cent of the teachers are paid by the hour and this “sweating of the assets” means there is a heavy turnover of staff.

“All of which helps to explain why these teachers are fighting hard for a union. Their colleagues at Coventry University can be in a number of unions that are recognised by the university.

“Appallingly though, the board of governors at CU Coventry decided recently to resist any approaches from unions at the college.

“CU Coventry’s “no frills” model is highly profitable. In 2016 it registered post-tax profits of £3.8million which it then gift-aided to its sole shareholder, Coventry University.

“The CEO of CU College is the pro-vice-chancellor of Coventry University and the board includes two deputy vice-chancellors and the university secretary.

“The university sector is currently beset by scandals over senior pay and perks, and it is right that a light is finally being shone on the murky world of remuneration committees. It is also time to take a proper look at the role of subsidiary companies and how they treat their staff.”

A spokesman for Coventry University’s University and College Union (UCU) said: “Staff at CU Coventry teach long hours for less money than Coventry University teachers and have no proper pension scheme.

“This isn’t fair for the staff or the students they teach and it’s why the staff are fighting for a union.

“It’s scandalous that the CU Coventry board, which is dominated by Coventry University managers, hands the profits over to the university but denies staff the pay and conditions on offer at Coventry University.”

Coventry University’s vice-chancellor John Latham receives £293,000 annually in salary according to the Times Higher Education magazine.

A CU Coventry spokesperson said: “Teaching staff at CU Coventry have similar levels of pay to those at Coventry University, although they are employed under separate contracts and under different terms and conditions to reflect the different nature of teaching and timetabling.

“These flexible learning options have opened up the higher education experience to students from a range of backgrounds who would not otherwise have been able to benefit from learning at the highest level – and as such CU Coventry’s retention rates are above the sector average.

“CU Coventry’s approach offers a range of options; weekend teaching, evening and day learning, and we offer enrolment every six weeks.

“It is a very different way of learning from the traditional HE model – 42 per cent of all Coventry students now stay in the Midlands region after graduating.

“A number of staff members have successfully launched their teaching careers with us and have now gone on to progress within the higher education sector.

“Many of our staff also choose and value the flexibility.”

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