Southampton UCU Rotating Header Image

Local Campaign

Southampton UCU Branch Statement to Students about Strike Action

Branch officers recently met with the SUSU Vice President Education and Democracy, Emily Bastable, to discuss our upcoming strike action on 24, 25 and 30 November.  Emily confirmed that there would be an all student vote on the action that would run from Friday 11 November to Friday 18 November.  Southampton UCU provided a statement for students giving information about the UCU Rising campaign and why we are striking.  We do hope that the students at University of Southampton support the action, which already has the full support of the National Union of Students (SUSU are not affiliated to the NUS).


You may have heard that university staff across the nation will be taking strike action for three days on 24, 25 and 30 November. With great sadness and reluctance, UCU members at the University of Southampton will be participating, to fight for better working conditions. None of our members chose a career in higher education because of greed. Rather, whether lecturer, librarian, researcher, technician, administrator, or something else, we chose our professions because we are passionate about developing and sharing knowledge – both for the good of society and for the benefit of you, our students. Why, then, are we going on strike? We would like to explain our reasons for doing so.

Staff are taking action because of the relentless and continual erosion of our pay, conditions, and pensions, and because workloads have increased year after year, to a level that jeopardises our mental and physical wellbeing. We have reached a point where the quality of your education is being diluted, and where many staff are now financially insecure, and those who are not yet in that position face financial uncertainty in retirement.

  • Equality: Southampton has a mean gender pay gap of 19.9%. It does not report figures for ethnicity or disability pay gaps. This is totally unacceptable in 2022. Inequality is embedded in the sector by casualization, falling pay and pensions cuts.
  • Workloads: A recent UCU report reveals that university staff work on average and extra two working days each week. Many staff report suffering from depression and are considering resigning. Our local survey found that our members are struggling with crippling workloads that have only increased since the pandemic. Most recently, our complaints about the unbearable pressure being placed on staff during the summer assessment period have been ignored.
  • Casualization: At Southampton, around 41% of staff who provide teaching and academic support are casualized. Many of the staff that teach you or support your learning will not know if they have a job next academic year and may not even be entitled to sick pay. Staff turnover is high, expertise and experience are lost, and students suffer as a result.
  • Pay: Our pay has fallen in real terms by 25% since 2009. The latest pay offer we received was 3%, yet RPI in July 2022 was 12.3%, which means our pay has been cut again. A new lecturer’s starting salary today is about £6,000 less in real terms than it was in 2008. This is unsustainable. Let’s be clear: your fees are not going towards our wages, they are going towards senior leadership pay, shiny new buildings, consultancy fees and other vanity projects.
  • Pensions: Universities have forced through devastating cuts to our pensions. Staff are losing up to 35% of their pensions following a seriously flawed valuation that took place two years ago, which claimed that our pension fund had a deficit of £14.1bn. Yet the latest data (30 June 2022) suggests that there is actually a surplus of £1.8bn. Many staff now face financial insecurity in old age and the University admits that the cuts they supported will damage younger staff, women and part-time/casualized workers the most.

The leaders of some universities have claimed that fair workloads, conditions, equality, pay and pensions are unaffordable, but UCU has offered to explore alternative options for such institutions, on the condition that they open their books to our accountants so that their claims can be verified. The University of Southampton is clearly not in this position, as public accounts confirm its finances are healthy (e.g. surpluses of £18m in 2020-21, and £103m in 2019-20). Yet the leaders of this University have decided to support below inflation pay rises and the unjustified slashing of pensions, and have yet to take effective action on casualization and equality. These attacks on staff are also attacks on students, because our working conditions are your learning conditions, and we all deserve better.

How can you help? We ask that you support UCU members by voting in favour of supporting our strike action in SUSU’s All-Student Vote. SUSU will then be able to work with us to put pressure on the University to do all it can to resolve our disputes. We need your support to save higher education.

Thank you.

Southampton UCU, 11 November 2022


A SUCU member in IT explains to non-academics why strike has become the last resort 

There are several issues around the strike. The headline is that we’ve had below inflation pay increases for the decade before this year’s cost-of-living crisis. But there has been a significant increase in casualisation… it’s shocking that some university lecturers are now part of the “gig economy”. Admittedly, a few people do like that arrangement, but many don’t. Finally, many of us chose and stayed in this career for the excellent pension. My “final salary” pension was ended a few years back and my 20 years of contributions was converted to an annuity-on-retirement that will increase in line with inflation… unless inflation goes over a cap that is set via a mechanism I don’t understand. High inflation means that my 20 years of contributions are shrinking and I feel betrayed when the promise was that this was to be linked to my final salary. I know many people don’t have as good a pension, but I chose to remain at the uni through good times and bad and the pension promise was part of that decision… I didn’t realise that they could just decide to invalidate it.  

Last time there was a marking strike it resulted in a big win for the union, but this time it’s going to hit students who’ve had the worst experience of university of any cohort in decades due to the pandemic. They don’t deserve this, but our staff deserve not to have yet another year of below inflation pay increases.  

Personally, I don’t have many expenses so am not hurting but many of my co-workers have kids to raise and each year they are paid a little less (after inflation) and have a little less security at work. Something you may not have thought about is that, while IT people like me have other jobs we can go to, a lecturer has usually done a 3 year degree, a one year MSc or similar, a 3-4 year PhD, done 5 years or so as a “post doc”. That’s 13 years of training to get to be a basic lecturer… and it’s more complicated, as being a lecturer isn’t fungible to other topics. If you are an expert in, say, Roman era pottery, that means maybe you could lecturer in other topics on Roman archaeology or pottery archaeology but there’s less than 200 universities in the country which means maybe 100 jobs in the entire UK for the thing you’ve spent your life becoming competent in, so job hopping usually means moving around the country or even to another country (oops, Brexit screwed that, so tough luck). I’m writing this as I suspect we are not going to be treated kindly in the press and it’s good for people to understand a bit of the background. 

A common response to people unhappy with the career they followed is “if you don’t like it, leave”, but Academia is a job that needs to be done. These are the people teaching the advanced classes to the next generation and doing the research which makes our society wealthier and wiser.  

I don’t want to go on strike. I dislike doing a bad job, and I care about the work we do. I am lucky enough to have skills that could get me a job elsewhere and very modest outgoings. I’ll be voting for strike action because it’s not just about me, and I can afford to lose a few day’s pay even if not all union members can. Even if I couldn’t afford to go on strike, I’d still vote “yes” on the ballot because not doing so takes away the other union member’s right to withdraw their labour. So even if you can’t afford to go on strike every day, or at all, please vote “yes” to not deny other people that option. 

UCU HE dispute: UCU Rising – USS communication to Vice-Chancellor

As the UCU Rising ballot opens today, Southampton UCU branch officers have today written to the Vice-Chancellor asking him to reconsider the University’s stance on USS and for him to provide a formal response to six USS facts.  We will keep you updated of any response.


Email to: Vice Chancellor Mark E Smith

cc: Sarah Pook, Executive Director of Finance

6 September 2022

Dear Mark

As you know, UCU are once again balloting members on industrial action to fight back against unjustified cuts to USS pensions. Members at your university stand to lose up to 35% from their pensions due to cuts which were imposed based on a flawed valuation in March 2020 when markets were crashing. Newer members to the scheme, part-time staff, casualised staff and women all stand to lose the most. This is disgraceful, especially given that these staff are also the ones most likely to be squeezed by the cost-of-living crisis.

We are writing to request that you respond formally to the following six important facts on USS, which are listed below with evidence:

  1. Negligible deficit and lower future service costs: Even by USS’s highly contested valuation methodology, the USS June 2022 monitoring suggests the fund is now in surplus and requiring only 20.9-21.2% total contributions to continue to fund the current reduced level of benefits. Even without the April 2022 cuts the fund would remain in surplus and require total contributions in the low 30%s. A graph and spreadsheet show the June monitoring surplus with and without cuts. The results have been reproduced and verified independently by Michael Bromwich, Professor of Accounting and Financial Management Emeritus at LSE, who has estimated here, from the June monitoring, the increase to future service costs with restored pre-April 2022 benefits as an update to his article ‘Time for Agreement’.
  1. Many employers want to improve benefits as soon as possible. Through public statements alone, 32% of USS institutions (weighted by USS contributions) have already called for any upside to be prioritised to improving benefits, while 22% have already publicly called for this to be as soon as possible, for example through a change to the schedule of contributions based on an intermediate valuation in advance of a formal valuation.
  1. UUK can consult rapidly on unusual arrangements, and their aspiration for a ‘fast-track’ 2023 valuation is in opposition to earlier claims. UUK claim they want to ‘deliver positive changes for scheme members as quickly as possible’, but are not considering the option of an interim restoration of benefits, which is within the power of the JNC. Instead they expect to be able to ‘fast-track’ a 2023 valuation, in spite of having previously claimed that it would be extremely challenging to fast-track a 2022valuation when UCU called for one in January 2022. In addition in September 2021, UUK consulted on and endorsed a highly unusual change involving a complex dual schedule of contributions and expedited submission of the 2020 valuation. This consultation lasted only one week but resulted in a new schedule of contributions and recovery plan that delayed deficit recovery contributions. So a precedent has been set for rapid consultation on a proposal that includes delaying or changing the structure of deficit recovery contributions.
  1. USS is no longer nationally competitive. USS has now fallen so far behind public sector pensions that the value of the pension it provides is well below half the value of the Teachers’ Pension Scheme.
  2. UUK consistently underestimated the level of cuts. UUK seriously and repeatedly underestimated the level of cuts through consultations as demonstrated in ‘The distribution of loss to future USS pensions due to the UUK cuts of April 2022’ which analyses the cuts using only the UUK Heat map and the USS modeller.
  1. UUK consultations are viewed as flawed. The UUK consultation process was widely and credibly viewed to be biased against UCU’s proposals that would have prevented the cuts. Sam Marsh and Mike Otsuka have written repeatedly on this, for example here on UUK’s escalating misrepresentation of UCU’s proposals (Pt II), here on the delay in consulting, and here on the double standards applied to UCU and UUK proposals.

As you can see, the evidence shows that the situation has changed enormously over the past two years. We believe that vice chancellors have a duty to reconsider their position in the light of that and to restore benefits while a new valuation is carried out. We understand that the UUK annual conference is taking place 7-8th September in Leicester, and we hope that you will use this information to inform your responses during any discussions on USS which takes place. This branch would like to be able to say that our vice chancellor, as an influential leader in UUK, led the way in ensuring that staff at this university were protected in their retirement and not left to face financial hardship in retirement.

We look forward to receiving your reply.

Southampton UCU Executive Committee


Reasons to vote YES in the HE ballots – USS

Some staff have sent emails to the VC urging him to rethink his position on USS in the light of new evidence that the perceived deficit on which the current UUK proposals are based has all but disappeared. They received a standard response email from the Finance Director, Sarah Pook, and shared it with us. We wanted to investigate some of the assertions made in this email and consulted pensions expert, Mike Otsuka, from LSE. He has provided us with these helpful comments which challenge many of her key points and suggest that UoS is doubling down in its defence of a fundamentally flawed position adopted by UUK.

Sarah Pook: ‘In the spirit of ensuring that everyone has awareness of all views to ensure the widest possible understanding of the situation, I thought it would be helpful to make you aware of the response and clarification given by Universities UK, on behalf of USS employers, to the latest UCU comments relating to the USS Trustee’s latest monthly monitoring report of the pension scheme:

The USS Trustee has a legal duty to conclude the 2020 valuation, and has determined the contributions payable by both employers and members under the 2020 valuation. These contributions are set out in the schedule of contributions and are legally payable until superseded at a future valuation’.

Mike Otsuka: The bold bit of this statement is false: “These contributions are set out in the schedule of contributions and are legally payable until superseded at a future valuation.” Even in the absence of a new valuation, USS could issue a new recovery plan and schedule of contributions, which reflects the current, improved funding level of the scheme as indicated by the monitoring of the 2020 valuation. Moreover, even in the absence of a new valuation, JNC could revoke the UUK cuts and replace them with a higher level of benefits, costed in a similar way.

Sarah Pook: ‘It is good news to see an indicative improvement in the funding position, but this is monthly monitoring and not a full actuarial valuation which requires a full process including revised covenant assessment, and statutory consultations to be concluded amongst other processes; as we know this takes considerable time to conduct.’

Mike Otsuka: The above is true. Nevertheless, it would be possible, while awaiting the results of a full actuarial valuation with more reasonable (less excessively conservative – aka ‘prudent’) underlying assumptions than the 2020 valuation – to revise the recovery plan and schedule of contributions to reflect the improved funding position of the 2020 valuation.

Sarah Pook: ‘USS made clear last week at the Joint Negotiating Committee that without the latest reforms we would not have seen such an improvement in the funding position, which remains very volatile month-to-month’.

Mike Otsuka: As Mark Taylor-Batty notes: “The growth of assets to circa £90bn, the fundamental aspect of the improved position, has nothing to do with the UUK proposal. The health of the scheme adds credibility and urgency to the UCU proposals.”

Sarah Pook: ‘The USS Trustee has made clear that without the reforms escalating contributions would be payable by both members and employers – and this would not change until a new valuation was concluded’.

Mike Otsuka: This is false. Even before a new valuation is concluded, it would be possible to cap the escalation in contributions, as spelled out by the third of UCU’s three proposals. See here for further explanation of how such a cap could be realised.

Sarah Pook: ‘Indeed, if the reforms were not made the USS Trustee’s February 2022 monitoring points to a future service rate of 40.7%, plus a deficit of £6.3bn to be addressed which requires further deficit contributions of between 4% and 6.2%’.

Mike Otsuka: Here your VC is running together two very different items under the heading of ‘reforms’: (i) UUK’s swingeing cuts to future accrual, and (ii) their commitment to repair the damage to the covenant caused by the exit of one of their members (Trinity College Cambridge) by such means as a 20 year commitment of all other employers not to exit the scheme. The figures quoted above are based on the assumption that employers fail to repair this damage but instead offer only minimal covenant support. Under UCU’s proposals, current benefits would be underpinned by these measures to repair the damage to the covenant – i.e., they would be underpinned by the same level of covenant support as employers are extending to their own cuts to benefits. With such comparable covenant support, USS has indicated that, as of 28th February, the cost of future service would be 38% (not 40.7%), the deficit would be £3.6bn (not £6.3bn), and required deficit recovery contributions would be as low as 0.9% (not 4%), where this lower rate would be achieved by means of reasonable assumptions regarding length of recovery plan and assumptions regarding returns on asset investment.

In short, this is further evidence that our employer is refusing to engage with UCU even when the situation has changed and even when UCU’s proposals represent the best option for securing benefits for members and protecting the long-term health of the scheme.

The only way for us to get any leverage to push back against these savage cuts to our pensions is to refuse to accept them.

Vote YES to Strike Action and YES to ASOS on USS.

Why academic related professional staff should vote YES in the HE ballots

The University of Southampton comprises over 6,000 staff. Over 2,000 are academic-related professional staff (ARPS). We work across 17 distinct professional services: responsible for student and education services, libraries and the arts, widening participation and social mobility, global recruitment and admissions, residences, iSolutions, and the list goes on. ARPS are fundamental to the running of the university. Whilst our collective voice in UCU may be smaller in relation to our academic colleagues, we are affected by many of the same issues, we are of equal importance when it comes to challenging issues of our pensions, pay, workloads, casualisation and equality, and it is imperative that ARPS make it clear that we will not stand for the erosion of our pay and conditions.

Many ARPS will be affected by the ongoing USS pensions dispute, and indeed, many of us have taken strike action on this issue previously at Southampton in 2018, 2019 and 2020. On 31st March 2022, UCU issued a call for VCs across the UK to demand UUK revoke the cuts to the pensions after the health of USS finances were revealed. The changes due from 1st April see staff who pay into USS lose up to 35% of their pensions when they get to retirement. If you haven’t already, you can use the UCU modeller to see how you could be affected by these cuts.

Along with our pensions, pay has been eroded consistently since 2009, with a recent report by UCU showing that pay is down by 25.5% in real terms. ARPS are already in a position where there is no consistency with academic colleagues in regards to a framework for pay and promotion. Relatedly, the national picture on pay inequality is bleak. The pay gap between Black and white staff is 17%. The disability pay gap is 9%. The mean gender pay gap is 15.1%. An earlier blog in this series pointed to the pervasive gender pay gap at the University of Southampton. The erosion of pay is closely linked to increased casualisation. There are approximately 15k ARPS employed on temporary contracts. The issue of casualisation HE is not exclusive to our academic colleagues. Across the University of Southampton, professional services have undergone or are undergoing restructures, and there are departments still reeling from loss of staff after the latest rounds of voluntary severance in 2020. This has seen temporary posts and uncertain secondments proliferate, putting strain on teams, and adding to workloads where staff turnover is high and gaps in teams aren’t being properly resourced. For an institution that has just unveiled a new strategy that states a commitment to put its people at the ‘heart’, presiding over sustained cuts to our material conditions at a time when the cost of living is the highest it has been in decades is contemptuous.

Voting to take strike action is hard. It can be particularly difficult when you are one of only a small handful of colleagues in a team – or sometimes the only one – who are members of UCU. However, visibility of ARPS on the picket line is key to growing our numbers at the branch and making that collective voice stronger. Without ARPS, universities would cease to run. Academics would suffer, students would suffer, and the wider community would suffer. We need to stand unified with our academic colleagues, recognising that the issues outlined in the ballot affect us all.


Further communications with management about in-person exams…….continued

We continue to push management on their unsatisfactory responses to our concerns about in-person examinations.  Our recent email resulted in the below letter from Wendy Appleby (VP Operations) – yet another disappointing response to our valid concerns.


Loader Loading...
EAD Logo Taking too long?

Reload Reload document
| Open Open in new tab














Further communications with senior management about in-person examinations

Following our recent email to management raising our continued concerns about returning to campus and in particular in-person examinations, we received an unsatisfactory reply prompting a further email from the branch:

Sent: 13 January 2022 11:23
To: Vice-Chancellor <>; Vice President (Operations) <>; Alex Neill <>
Cc: Cathy Day <>; ucu <>
Subject: UCU response to VP operations email re in-person exams

Dear Mark, Alex and Wendy,

We are writing again in response to developments regarding in-person exams which have occurred over the past few days and to urge the University once more to think again.

We thank Wendy Appleby for her response to our letter sent on 5th January formally requesting the University not to go ahead with large in-person exams because of the risks posed by the highly contagious Omicron variant. We are not satisfied with the reply, most of which repeats content from emails already sent to students and H&S officers and does not address our key concerns.

On Tuesday 11th, Alex Neill sent an email to students explaining the University’s rationale for continuing with in-person exams despite strong opposition from staff and students. UCU takes issue with a number of statements in that email:

1. ‘Rigorous risk assessments have been carried out, and we are only using venues that have sufficient space to allow for our COVID safety measures to be put in place’.

  • We believe it is not space that is the most important issue, but ventilation. H&S officers from all 3 campus unions have been asking for ventilation to be checked fully in all teaching spaces and we are still waiting. H&S officers are not confident that ventilation checks have been carried out with appropriate care and rigour.

2. Students have been told ‘If your ability to attend an in-person exam is affected by COVID – for example, because a positive test requires you to self-isolate – please use our special considerations process to notify your School’.

  • There are significant consequences for students with this approach, particularly those who have internships, summer jobs or postgraduate courses lined up. If they need to do referrals in the summer, these plans could be jeopardised and will certainly have to be put on hold adding unnecessarily to stress and anxiety.
  • There are also significant consequences for staff. Last summer, examination boards lasted many hours across many days and put undue pressure on administrative and academic staff which was detrimental to their health and wellbeing. It is unconscionable that the University would want to put staff through all that again, particularly as it has the chance now to prevent it from happening.

3. ‘The Government and public health bodies are clear that in-person on-campus activities can and should continue’.

  • UCU believes this is a misreading of the guidance and is unrelated to the question of in-person exams.

4. ‘We want to reassure you that the University has taken every precaution to reduce potential risks for both staff and students’

  • UCU cannot agree with this statement since the University is neither mandating the use of proper face masks instead of face coverings nor providing an adequate supply of COVID-free air.

5.  It has come to our attention that the usual reliance on Uniworkforce temporary staff as invigilators has led to a shortage of invigilators due at least in part to a fear of catching COVID whilst invigilating. Absent sight of a risk assessment related to invigilating exams, we are not in a position to comment on the safety of undertaking invigilating work should colleagues be offered the opportunity.

Furthermore, for some subjects, students are being required to attend on-campus in-person examinations which are computer-based online assessments and have been designed to work both online and in-person. Forcing students and supervisory staff to undertake this risk given that there are alternative, viable plans in place seems gratuitous.

Finally, no consideration seems to have been given to the potential harm caused to the wider Southampton community (noting evidence from the USA that young children are at particular risk, and that they are unvaccinated in the UK) by increasing the spread of COVID omicron at this critical time. It seems entirely inappropriate for in-person exams to be taking place in the current climate when it is possible to move to an alternative plan.

Once more, UCU requests your urgent response.

Southampton UCU


Response from management to our email of 5 January

Loader Loading...
EAD Logo Taking too long?

Reload Reload document
| Open Open in new tab




Reasons to vote YES in the USS ballot

Vote now (and if you don’t have your ballot, request a replacement TODAY) for industrial action over USS.

If necessary, order your replacement ballot here:

Vote for strike action and for action short of a strike.

1. Our dispute is with the University as our employer, represented by Universities UK in national negotiations. It can only be resolved through industrial action against the employer.

2. Over the last few years, USS investments have performed badly compared to other schemes such as the University of London’s internal SAUL pension. USS and UUK have maintained a culture of secrecy and complacency; when a UCU-appointed trustee started asking difficult questions, they worked together to have her removed. The current difficulties are their fault.

3. Our employers have not delivered on their past promises to commit support to USS over the long term. Their refusal of “covenant support” has sabotaged our chance of retaining current benefits at modest cost for a further fifteen months while we work out a long-term solution.

4. The blue line on the graph below shows that, without this UUK sabotage, an academic on £40,000 would have been able to retain current benefits at modest cost. In contrast, UUK is trying to force us to follow the yellow line; we would lose a third of the value of our pension by retirement age. Because of the poor inflation protection, it only gets worse as we get older.

Graph by Prof Mike Otsuka from UCL, a member of the UCU national negotiating team.For details see:

5. The graph makes a modest assumption of 3.5% CPI inflation. This is substantially lower than it is now. If inflation continues at the current rate, our pension would be much worse.

UCU concerns about returning to campus – email to senior management

UCU has written today (5 January) to the Vice-Chancellor and Vice-President (Operations) asking them to reconsider the University’s position on returning to campus in January 2022.  We will keep you posted of any response received.


From: ucu
Sent: 05 January 2022 13:01
To: Vice-Chancellor <>; Vice President (Operations) <>
Cc: Lucy Watson <>; Cathy Day <>; Alex Neill <>
Subject: UCU concerns about returning to campus

Dear Mark and Wendy
We are writing to urge you to reconsider your position on COVID restrictions and face to face teaching activity for the final week of this semester and the exam period.

Omicron is now known to be much more infectious than other COVID variants. UCU believes that, alongside getting vaccinated, the most important thing we can do as a community is to try to “spread out” the coming January peak load on the NHS. The impact on public health caused by staff absence, lack of care home placements, the large backlog of scheduled interventions, and new COVID infections will be enormous. We can help reduce this impact by minimising the rate of infection among our staff and students for the next month or so.

We believe that the University should:

  • Cancel large in-person teaching sessions and assessments and consider online alternatives. We know that ECS, along with one or two other STEM departments, are insisting on in-person examinations this semester. We believe that because Omicron is so contagious, staff and students are being put at unnecessary risk of contracting covid during one of these sessions. In addition, those students who test positive before having to attend a face-to-face exam must isolate and the alternatives for them are limited. The University is encouraging students to either not test and risk bringing the variant to campus or test positive and miss an important assessment.
  • Avoid the use of teaching spaces which have not been demonstrated to have an adequate flow of outside or virus-filtered air. The UK government has finally accepted that steps need to be taken to prevent the circulation of COVID within school classrooms and have announced the supply of 7000 “air purifiers”. In contrast, many of our teaching spaces at the University still have not been effectively surveyed even for air flow, regardless of the cleanliness of the incoming air. In most cases, we understand that the recirculated air is not filtered to remove COVID and may well be spreading infection around the whole area (possibly more than a single room) over which it is being recirculated. We also believe that it is not technically possible to operate most of these systems using external air only.
  • Recommend the use of non-valved FFP2 or FFP3 masks. Regardless of the official advice, UCU’s Health and Safety representatives believe that the new omicron variant requires us to enhance the standard of mask that we wear in the workplace. FFP3 respirators without valves are now readily available commercially and the University should provide them for staff who need to be on campus.
  • Finally, the University must provide appropriate remote support for staff and students who are unable to attend in-person because they care for vulnerable people or are vulnerable themselves. This includes carrying out individual risk assessments for staff who are in this position and allowing them to work from home if necessary. Staff should not be expected to teach both in-person and online as this leads to an unacceptable workload increase which staff are barely managing as it is.

Our views are informed by this opinion piece from the British Medical Journal which has a large group of signatories They specifically promote high-quality masks, ventilation, and filtration. We are also taking advice from national UCU and scientists who believe that the Department of Education’s response to Omicron in our settings is woefully inadequate. Universities can choose to do more to protect staff and students independently, and we believe that they should.

As teaching is due to start on Monday, we request your urgent response.

With regards

Southampton UCU Executive Committee

UCU communication with VC and VP Operations re students’ travel plans over the winter break

We have sent the below urgent email to the Vice Chancellor and Vice-President (Operations) on 14 December following the communication to students yesterday.  The University responded to us today.


From: Alex Neill <>
Sent: 15 December 2021 13:14
To: ucu <>
Subject: Re: Urgent: UCU concerns about students’ travel plans

Dear Southampton UCU,

I am writing in reply to your message to the Vice-Chancellor and the Vice-President (Operations) in which you suggest that the University move to online learning for non-practical classes until the end of the Semester.  The University has considered this option in the light of the new variant and student cases numbers, and we have determined that we should continue to follow the latest government guidance, which states that in-person teaching and research should continue ‘as is’.

We continue to monitor very closely our positive cases numbers at the University, taking speedy and proportionate action when we need to do so, working closely with our partner agencies including the local public health teams, the Health Protection Board and the UK Health Security Agency.  As we approach the end of term, we are seeing an increase in COVID cases which may in part be due to the increase in testing which is required before students leave for home this week. We have yet to find any evidence that transmission has taken place in a teaching environment.

With respect to the availability of LFD tests, at Southampton we continue to benefit from our unique saliva testing programme and we continue to encourage all staff and students to take advantage of that; currently 61% of staff are using the programme. In addition to the saliva testing option, LFD tests have been available for collection from the staff club foyer.  The University continues to offer support to any member of staff experiencing work related stress or mental health anxiety.

Best wishes,



Professor Alex Neill
Vice-President (Education)



From: ucu
Sent: 14 December 2021 15:19
To: Vice-Chancellor <>; Vice President (Operations) <>
Cc: Kieron Broadhead <>; Cathy Day <>; Luke Kelly <>; Lucy Watson <>
Subject: Urgent: UCU concerns about students’ travel plans

Dear Mark and Wendy

We write urgently to express our concern at the latest email from Kieron Broadhead sent to students on 13th December. The email reminds students that they are responsible for their own actions and should consider how they can ‘reduce the risk of self-isolation impacting [their] winter break plans’ by ‘balancing the various factors that are important’ to them when planning to travel. On Wednesday 8th December, VP Operations Wendy Appleby sent an email to all staff stating that teaching plans would remain the same and that teaching staff were exempt from the government’s work from home advice. The message from university management was clear that in person teaching would continue for the rest of this week. This expectation was reiterated in the CHSC on Monday 13th December.

We are now in a position where students must choose between staying on campus and attending in person classes, thereby risking testing positive and being unable to travel over Christmas or missing some of their education. Conversely, staff are expected to be on campus and teach in person regardless of the fact that cases amongst the student population are rising at an alarming rate: 95 new cases today alone. This increased risk of infection, along with the difficulty of getting boosters and the lack of availability of lateral flow tests is adding to stress and anxiety for the whole university community as we run up to the end of the semester.

The only sensible course of action is for all non-practical classes to be moved online for the rest of the semester so that students and staff can stay safe and ensure they can spend some much-needed time with family and friends over the holidays. We note that Kieron Broadhead’s email does not ask students to test before they return home. Surely the importance of testing is something the university should be reinforcing in its messaging consistently.

As this is a rapidly evolving situation, we ask for your prompt response.

Southampton UCU executive committee