Ruskin College – updates on joint dispute with UCU
17 July 2019
Ruskin College absolutely refutes all allegations of victimisation of union reps and would like to reiterate that the ongoing disciplinary investigations are entirely separate from any trade union activity undertaken by those involved. As would be expected of any good employer, Ruskin College follows its published policies and procedures. These are agreed with unions and apply to all staff equally and completely, irrespective of their political, social or professional affiliations. It would be inappropriate and unfair to make any further comment on this matter whilst the investigations are ongoing.
The proposed redundancies announced earlier this month affect those teaching on courses with significant under-recruitment and poor student retention. The delivery of high quality degree and MA programmes remains a priority for the College but it is neither financially viable nor in students’ best interests to run courses with only a handful of students. We will continue to develop our HE curriculum and deliver courses which are valued by our students and have a demonstrably transformative effect on their lives and futures.
The management team at Ruskin continues to pursue positive dialogue with UCU to bring about a swift resolution to the current joint dispute.
8 July 2019
In light of the recent press release by UCU regarding the joint dispute with Ruskin College and the proliferation of false and misleading information circulating on social media, Ruskin College would like to clarify its position on the current situation and reassert its previous statement in relation to the suspension of one of its tutors and the announcement this week of a small but sadly unavoidable number of redundancies.
The suspension, together with other disciplinary investigations, are internal staff disciplinary matters which are entirely unconnected with any trade union activity of those involved and they remain ongoing. No further comment on the detail of any disciplinary investigation will be made by the College until the matters are resolved. Suspension of a member of staff is a serious step and no institution, including Ruskin, would do so without taking proper legal advice and without genuine concern for the wellbeing of the member of staff concerned, colleagues and students.
It would be wrong for any institution to seek to discipline or suspend a member of staff as a result of their union activity; the notion that Ruskin College, the home of trade union education for more than 100 years, would do so is absolutely inconceivable. Trade union membership at Ruskin is actively encouraged among the staff and there are currently four unions well-represented in College. Contrary to claims, the vote of no confidence in March was not unanimous, even among UCU members, and was supported by less than 20% of staff. Ruskin College remains the largest provider of trade union training in the UK with up to 3,000 reps trained each year; we are truly socially inclusive with 98% achievement and 94% retention levels. Around two thirds of our Access and degree level students are women and more than a third of our students are from black and minority ethnic backgrounds.
The ongoing campaign by UCU for improved funding for FE Colleges and the end to the monetisation of education is fully supported by all management and staff at Ruskin College. Cuts to the sector over the past few years have been devastating and far-reaching. Adult education has been particularly badly affected and it is right that the unions should lobby hard on this point. These systemic and ongoing cuts, coupled with a significant drop in undergraduate applications across the country this year, have meant that all colleges, Ruskin included, have had to make difficult decisions. Redundancies are always regrettable and a last resort, and every institution seeks to avoid them wherever possible. For clarity, the redundancies announced at Ruskin this week affect only those teaching on courses with poor recruitment and retention figures and have nothing to do with the trade union activity of those involved.
The management and staff remain committed to delivering high quality degree programmes – Social Work and Youth Work are both thriving at Ruskin, with recruitment continuing to increase year on year. All students currently on affected courses will of course be supported to complete their programmes at Ruskin. Student numbers on our FE courses continue to grow steadily and applications for our extremely successful Access courses are already double those of last year. Success rates on Access courses at Ruskin are significantly higher than the national figure with a predicted pass rate of more than 95%. This year’s Access students hold multiple offers from top universities and apprenticeship programmes.
The TUC defines its purpose as ‘standing up and joining together to make the working world a better place’ and this is fully supported by the Ruskin ethos. We, together with our colleagues at UCU, are working closely together to effect a swift and fair resolution to this dispute whilst Ruskin, a college renowned for being ‘exemplary for widening participation,’ continues to provide life-changing educational opportunities to adults across Oxfordshire and beyond.