THE University and College Union (UCU) yesterday wrote to the University and Colleges Employers’ Association (UCEA) to ask the employers to act to stop creeping privatisation in UK universities.

In the letter UCU joint general secretary, Sally Hunt, says that UCU is concerned about the quality of education provided and the impact on the terms and conditions of the staff where private provision replaces that of the institution itself.

UCU has already learned of instances where private companies, including INTO University Partnerships Ltd, providing academic services to overseas students, have tried to recruit less-qualified staff for lower pay.

At a meeting yesterday all the trade unions that represent university staff backed UCU’s call for UCEA to commit to signing a joint statement opposing the privatisation of key university functions and to a joint investigation of the extent of privatisation on campus.

Hunt, said: ‘Privatisation threatens both the quality of educational provision and the pay and conditions of university staff.

‘INTO and others like them should be in little doubt that they are not welcomed by the vast majority of those who work in higher education.

‘Universities should be places of learning, not earning and that is why we have written to the employers’ association asking them to alleviate staff fears by giving a clear commitment to oppose privatisation of academic and other key university functions.’

The threat of private companies’ involvement on university campuses is causing widespread mistrust and anger amongst university staff across the country.

Local branches of UCU have complained that universities are not consulting with them before moving into joint ventures with private enterprises.

On Friday there was a protest at Newcastle University over a proposal for INTO to run English language courses for international students at the University.

Newcastle UCU is now considering balloting its members for industrial action over the behaviour of the University.

The University was reported last week as saying it was a ‘done deal’, despite not going through the proper channels of communication with the union.

Oxford Brookes University staff have vowed that they will fight to save their International Centre for English Language Studies.

The staff believe that if the centre is sold off the quality of the student experience will deteriorate.

Already more than 4,000 senior academics have signed UCU’s open letter to university vice-chancellors calling for a commitment not to privatise.