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Settling in – new branch president but #WeAreStillTheUniversity

Thank you to members who attended the AGM on 15thJune.  It was good to see another high turnout and it was great to hear from Hedley Bashforth from Bath UCU about how their branch successfully used governance mechanisms and local campaigning to highlight excessive VC and senior manager pay at University of Bath. Our branch has been concerned about the University governance for some time because of the apparent silencing of academic and academic related staff voices from decision making processes.  We are worried that proposals to reduce the number of Faculties could cut our representation on Senate. See our estimates in the table below.  Just a few further cuts might tip elected staff representation to being in the minority.  For this reason, prompted by members, we have formed a group of UCU Senators who will be meeting to discuss these developments.

 SENATE COMPOSITION (paraphrased from the Calendar) 17/18 Possible 18/19
The President and Vice-Chancellor (Chair) 1 1
The Vice-Presidents 3 3 (4)
The Deans and Associate Deans 35 23
Dir iSolutions, Uni Librarian, Registrar,  Dir Student Services 4 4
Elected Representatives of the Academic Staff 50 < ? 30 ?
Elected Representatives of research staff (approx. 2 per Fac) 16 10
Elected Representatives of MSA staff 4 4
Chairs of Senate’s Committees not already members ? 2 ? ? 2 ?
Principals affiliated institutions 1 1
Five registered full-time students 5 5
 Total 121 83
Total Elected members 70 (58%) ? 44 (53%)


There is lots going on.  The process of fighting for a decent pension continues.  Locally we are busier than ever with case work, restructures and a series of issues, some arising from the project to reshape the University and some as a result of continuing problems we have experienced related to policies and practices instituted by senior management.

Our #BionicPresident Laurie Stras is a hard act to follow, but I will do my best and I thank Laurie and members of the exec who stepped down this year for all their hard work. We have a strong branch executive committee for 2018/19 and we will be meeting over coming weeks to plan the branch strategy for the coming year. If you want to input to this please contact me or Amanda Bitouche (

We also want to participate in the wider debates about representation, activism and engagement in our union. The special national Congress about these issues will be on 18thOctober in Birmingham and once again we are asking for delegates from this branch to attend – please contact Amanda if you wish to volunteer.  As promised at the AGM we want to hold an extraordinary general meeting to gather your views  – this will be held on Thursday 6 September at 1pm in room 44/1057 Lecture Room B, Shackleton Building, Highfield.

Our plan is to continue to use this blog, in addition to all-member emails, and the branch Twitter and Facebook accounts to keep members updated.  I am acutely aware how busy everyone is, but want to ensure that members know what the branch is doing, and to alert you in a timely way about matters of concern.

A few reminders and notices

The list of all the matters of concern for our branch is quite long and senior managers appear bent on adding to it every day. The redundancies and severances of this year are unlikely to be the last as senior managers continue to enact further reorganisation. Below I highlight pressing concerns and national issues for members’ attention.

HE Pay claim 2018

Following the recent consultative ballot on HE pay, members voted to reject the employers’ pay offer of 2%.  Nationally 82% of members who responded voted to reject the offer with 65% saying they were prepared to take industrial action to defend their pay.  The turnout for this branch was over the 50%.  The next step in the campaign is a comprehensive Get The Vote Out campaign to ensure that members vote in the formal ballot which will open w/c 27 August and close in mid-October.  We really need volunteers to help with this – if you are interested please let Amanda know.

Special HE Sector conference on USS

The branch sent two elected delegates, along with Denis Nicole as NEC rep to the HESC. There will be a fuller report of business there in due course, but this meeting allowed further debate about USS. You should also have received updates from Headquarters about the Joint Evaluation Panel which we hope represents a step forward in defending our pensions.

Workloads, workloads, workloads.

The suicide of Malcolm Anderson at Cardiff University was a stark and deeply sad reminder what overwork can do. Colleagues at all levels are experiencing heavier workloads and many are finding it harder and harder to cope.  Rising performance expectations, coupled with reductions in staff and a continued belief that software systems replace rather than simply re-allocate labour, is having a negative effect on our mental and physical health.  Many members commented that working to contracted hours during the industrial action improved wellbeing – it certainly revealed that this University regularly benefits from many hours of unpaid overtime by staff. If our employers continue to erode pay and refuse to defend our decent pension they may well find that we decide that they do not deserve all this free labour and we remind you that you are free to work only your contracted hours at all times – we don’t need to be in a national dispute to prioritise wellbeing.

Misuse of appraisal

Unfortunately we are still seeing bullying and poor management practice in appraisals so we will continue to push senior managers and HR to keep to the agreements reached in the Reward project and provide a fair and meaningful appraisal system without bullying, bell curve moderation or misuse of student evaluation data to rank staff. We have recently set up a working group to look at the Reward policies, including appraisal, promotion and probation.  If you would like to get involved with this please let Amanda know.

New clarity travel booking system

We continue to receive complaints and examples of how this new system is costing more – in terms of staff time and inconvenience as well as financially – and so we are compiling examples and pushing senior managers responsible to listen and respond appropriately.  If you have more examples please send them to us.

If you’ve read this far thank you.  I know that we are stronger when we work together as a union, so I look forward to working with you over the coming year.

Prof Catherine Pope

Branch President








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