Governance: UUK and NUS: report on BAME student attainment

Universities UK (UUK) and the National Union of Students (NUS) have published a report into the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) attainment gap in higher education and the action they propose is taken by universities to reduce it. The report, titled Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic student attainment at UK Universities: #closingthegap, states that it was produced after consultation with universities, student unions and external bodies, and: presents sector data on ethnicity and attainment discusses factors identified during the consultation as having an effect on ethnicity attainment differentials at degree level identifies steps that the UUK and NUS recommend are taken by universities as frameworks for accelerating progress provides brief guidance on how to implement positive action and ‘positive discrimination’ whilst complying with equality law, including examples of what types of action are likely to be lawful or unlawful. A number of briefings, reports and resources on BAME attainment, including equality and diversity data, are provided by the Office for Students (OfS) here.

Governance: Bribery Act 2010: post-legislative scrutiny

On 14 March 2019, the House of Lords Select Committee on the Bribery Act 2010 published its ‘Report of Session 2017-2019 The Bribery Act 2010: post-legislative scrutiny’ as to whether the Act is achieving its intended purposes.  The Select Committee was appointed by the House of Lords on 17 May 2018 to consider and report on the Bribery Act 2010.  The Act received Royal Assent on 8 April 2010 and came into force on 1 July 2011. In its principal conclusions and overall assessment, the report states that ‘the Act is an excellent piece of legislation which creates offences which are clear and all-embracing’, and the new offence of corporate failure to prevent bribery is regarded as ‘particularly effective’.  The report reviews the legislation and makes certain recommendations. The report highlights that the ‘Ministry of Justice Guidance’ (guidance), published under s.9 of the Act,  is less successful in providing SMEs with the information to assist them with adopting a formal anti-bribery policy, and could provide companies considering exporting with more assistance on the point at which hospitality would begin to influence the recipient’s course of action.   It is recommended that the guidance makes it clear that businesses need to conduct risk assessments, and provide staff training on procedures (see paragraph 194).  It is also recommended that the Secretary of State Read Full Article…

Governance: EHRC ‘Freedom of Expression’ guide for HEIs

On 2 February 2018, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) published a guide on Freedom of Expression for Higher Education Providers and Students’ Unions in England and Wales (the Guide).  In its introduction, the guide states that it ‘provides practical advice on how to protect free speech and makes it clear to students what they should expect from their institutions’.  The guide is aimed principally at: governing bodies of universities and other higher education providers students’ union trustees It states that it may also be of interest to others including academic staff, students’ union elected officers, individual students and speakers. In 2017, the House of Commons and House of Lords Joint Committee on Human Rights held an inquiry into the state of freedom of speech in UK universities.  It was found that: ‘…while restriction of freedom of expression was not a widespread issue, there were concerns around increased bureaucracy, and potential self-censorship from students on campus as a result of the Prevent duty guidance. They also flagged intolerant attitudes and violent protest as potential obstacles to free speech, as well as a potential conflict in interpretation and grey areas in some existing laws and guidance.’ (see page 5 of the Guide) Following concerns raised by the inquiry, in May 2018 the Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Read Full Article…

Governance: October deadline for publication of plans under British Sign Language (Scotland) Act 2015

The British Sign Language (Scotland) Act 2015  (the ‘Act’) came into force in October 2015.  The Act aims to promote the use and understanding of British Sign Language (BSL) through the use of ‘National Plans’ to be published by the Scottish Ministers, and ‘Authority Plans’ to be published by each of the ‘listed authorities’.   Section 6 states that any reference to a ‘listed authority’ is to a (Scottish) public authority listed or described in the Schedule to the Act.  This includes ‘A body which is a “post-16 education body” for the purposes of the Further and Higher Education (Scotland) Act 2005.’   The Scottish Government Equality Unit has issued guidance and templates (the ‘Guidance’) specific to various types of organisation, including Scottish HEIs, to help them publish Authority Plans in accordance with the Act.   According to Section 3(1) of the Act, a listed authority must publish its first Authority Plan as soon as is reasonably practicable after the first National Plan is published, and in any case within no later than 12 months.  Scotland’s first National Plan was published on 24 October 2017.  Listed authorities therefore have until 23 October 2018 to publish their Authority Plans.   Section 2(2) states that an Authority Plan should: set out measures to be taken by the listed authority in relation to the Read Full Article…

Governance: UUK issues good practice briefing on student contracts

Universities UK (UUK) have published a briefing which aims to look at the development of student contracts and set out good practice recommendations.  According to UUK, the briefing builds on the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) consumer law advice for higher education providers.  UUK stresses that the briefing is ‘not intended as legal advice for compliance with consumer law or the CMA’s existing guidance‘.   UUK states that, although the briefing is ‘motivated by the ongoing regulatory interest in student contracts in England’, its principles of good practice are intended to be applicable across the UK.   According to the briefing, the core underlying principles of the student contract should include:   ensuring that the terms and conditions of the contract are fair providing course information that is clear, consistent and quantifiable providing other material information, including avenues for complaints in the case of English HEIs, integrating other relevant registration conditions such as protection plans and student transfer agreements   UUK recommends that, in the future development of student contracts, providers should consider how such contracts can:   build on existing practice and guidance on consumer regulations and presentation of course information be embedded in the local relationship between a university and their students and their representatives and advisors provide students with the information necessary to progress in their studies Read Full Article…

Validity of ‘no oral modification’ clauses

In Rock Advertising Limited v MWB Business Exchange Centres Limited [2018] UKSC 24, the Supreme Court was asked to consider whether a contractual term prescribing that an agreement may not be amended save in writing signed on behalf of the parties was legally effective.  Such clauses are commonly called a ‘No Oral Modification’ clause. The dispute concerned a licence to occupy premises, MWB Business Exchange Centres Limited (MWB) being the licensor and Rock Advertising Limited (Rock) being the licensee.  The clause in the contract that prevented oral variations stated: ‘All variations to this Licence must be agreed, set out in writing and signed on behalf of both parties before they take effect.’ MWB fell into arrears in relation to their payment of licence fees.  A schedule of revised payments was proposed and it was purported that an authorised representative of each of the parties agreed to this schedule over the telephone.  MWB was subsequently evicted and the validity of this ‘agreement’ to vary the licence came into dispute.  This was on the basis that it had not been not set out in writing and signed on behalf of both parties, as required by the clause set out above. The court noted that the reasons often asserted for treating No Oral Modification clauses as ineffective are: ‘(i) that a variation of Read Full Article…