Last day… but not least

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Friday’s copy of Broadcast can be downloaded here

Although this is the last day of Congress, it’s by no means the least important. As well as giving Congress the chance to demonstrate UCU’s solidarity with  Malia Bouattia, president-elect of the National Union of Students, and the first black and the first Muslim to hold that post – in which she has already suffered Islamophobic media attacks, and totally unjustified allegations of antisemitism, there are also important issues of rules and finance to be decided upon.

It is not our intention on the issues of finance and rules to give voting advice on all motions – although we point out some issues in Broadcast relating to some of the proposals before congress. We note that it’s to the credit of the Treasurer and the staff advising her that the finances are in a robust situation and this should be acknowledged and applauded. With some exceptions we would simply advise listening to the arguments in the debate.

One motion, however, which we suggest must be passed is 55, on model branch rules, (with or without amendment 55A). There have been bitter arguments on this topic at previous Congresses, and now we are essentially back to the situation at merger. These are of course, only model rules, and a number of branches may need to seek variations. But, given the current climate, we believe it is essential for the union’s protection that all branches have rules of this nature in place, and that they are lodged with the national office.

On the other hand, motion 56 from Yorkshire & Humberside Regional Committee would set a dangerous precedent with regard to the status of elected members of our national committees. The rules state that members must be, or have recently been, in qualifying employment in order to be nominated for the NEC. They do not require NEC members to resign if they subsequently retire – and that is because they are elected to represent a constituency of members who are employed, and they could themselves become re-employed. In the HEC, there has been a convention that members in USS branches do not vote on TPS matters, and vice versa; but the arguments for that are not strong, since all HE constituencies comprise members in both pension schemes – who are disefranchised if their elected HEC member cannot vote. Motion 56 would extend that disenfrachisement, and it would be the start of cake-slicing: for example, should only NEC members from the various equality strands be allowed to vote on matters relating to those strands? We think not.

As always – points of view on the above are welcome. And if anyone would like to submit a ‘think-piece’ or opinion piece on something that they think should be part of the ‘UCU Agenda’ – please do so to:

Maybe interested in the Independent Broad Left Network in UCU?

Monty Python had it right

….. “Are you the Judean People’s Front?    ###k off – we’re the People’s Front of Judea”

Well we’re the Independent Broad Left Network in UCU and as well as some good ideas for the union, we’ve also got a sense of humour. Why not come along, have a drink, in one of Liverpool’s most historic pubs, find out more, and let us know what you think?

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Hope to see you there!

Vicky Knight VP-elect answers your questions

Vicky Knight is a trade union studies lecturer at The Manchester College with 25 years active experience within the public sector, in both the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) and UCU.

She was recently elected as Vice President of UCU and will take up this position at the end of the UCU’s UK Congress 2016 .

As well as her NEC membership and being an FE negotiator, she has represented UCU at the TUC annual Congress,TUC Women’s Conference and TUC Women’s Committee and has been chair of the TUC Women’s Committee for the last two years.

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Here she is interviewed by Douglas Chalmers, president of UCU Scotland, and quizzed on her ideas on the big issues facing UCU, particularly in FE in the next 2 years. It covers Vicky’s ideas on cuts, loans, lack of bursaries,ESOL, training, student development, area reviews, national bargaining, membership density, making the union more attractive to women – and many other things.

The video is approximately 10 minutes long, and thanks go to Janice Aitken Scotland Hon. Secretary for the camerawork! Sorry about the slight slippage in lip-synch at bits  – we’re working on that.





The Green Paper on Higher Education. What is says, and most importantly what it does not say

David Ridley  is a Lecturer in Media Theory at Coventry University and is also currently finishing his Ph.D in Sociology at the University of Birmingham. His thesis is an exploration of the possibility of a grassroots sociology that could contribute to radical democracy, and the limitations imposed by neoliberalism and the marketisation of higher education. David is Branch Secretary of Coventry University UCU and has been involved in campaigns around casualisation, the use of subsidiary companies and most recently the civic responsibilities of post-92 universities. 


The Green Paper on Higher Education in England has been at the heart of UCU discussions since first published in November 2015. Although Education is a matter devolved to the administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, many of the proposals have knock-on implications for the devolved nations. 

The briefing below is a condensed version of an original document for Coventry UCU, downloadable here.

As this is a long article, we have put plenty links in to allow you to navigate successfully!

Here is a link to a 9 Bullet Point summary


This report is intended to give UCU members an analysis of the recent Green Paper, which was (it is now closed and the results are being processed) an ‘open consultation’ on the future of Higher Education. The Green Paper not only outlines the much anticipated Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), but also aggressively pursues some of the other aspects of ‘marketisation’ that were first introduced in Lord Browne’s 2010 Review, whose suggestions were subsequently ‘cherry picked’ for the 2011 White Paper, Students at the Heart of the System. Primarily, the function of this briefing is to help give a sense of what the future may holds for the sector if the government is successful.

The briefing is critical: (1) in terms of its stance towards marketisation as a whole and (2) in terms of engaging with the emerging critical views on the Green Paper from commentators. For maximum ‘impact’, the briefing has been divided into three main themes: marketisation, the Teaching Excellence Framework, and plans to further ‘open up the system’ to ‘alternative providers’ and remove the public interest from higher education altogether.

This briefing seeks to provide an alternative point of view and grounding for action in the coming year as the discussion around the future of HE continues. It is hoped that this report will help open up a constructive dialogue between the UCU branch committees, members we seek to represent, and those who can influence the future of H.E.

The briefing is a further demonstration that the UCU is the only voice for democracy in an increasingly anti-democratic academic landscape, both locally and nationally. Continue reading

Vote Vicky Knight for UCU Vice President

The UCU Independent Broad Left (IBL) network supports the need for UCU to make hard strategic choices about prioritising resources to meet the challenges we face in this ever more hostile environment for post-16 education. This requires a union leadership which puts members first, and seeks to involve them, and emphasises core professional and trade union issues – education, research, jobs, pay, conditions, equality and professional autonomy. 

With this in mind, we have no hesitation whatsoever in supporting Vicky Knight’s candidature as VP of the union. (Download her election address here)

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A message to all UCU members from Vicky:

“This Government’s ideological agenda is clearly hurting everyone in our communities. As workers, educators and researchers we are continually doing more for less, in increasingly stressful environments – over-worked, underpaid, our workplace rights eroded, increasingly precarious in terms of job security, our professionalism undermined, and terms and conditions constantly under attack with privatisation looming.

We also face the (anti) Trade Union Bill, designed to subvert our right to strike, congregate and demonstrate – all of which are fundamental trade union and workers’ rights.

We must maintain at all costs the right to withdraw our labour – an action which UCU members never undertake lightly. Our strength is our democracy, using our collective ability to negotiate and exhaust political alternatives rst.

In order to defend our members in the current climate, a vital objective and focus of the union must be the strengthening of our branches – the absolute foundation of our membership – including increasing our numbers, and thus empowering us to use our collective bargaining and negotiation skills to improve members’ lives.

If you vote for me, you vote for a strong independent voice working hard for, and responsive to, all UCU stakeholders, for the benefit of all, inclusively and equally, in both HE and FE.” 

Some aspects of Vicky’s experience.


  • is a trade union studies lecturer at The Manchester College.
  • has 25 years’ active experience within the public sector, in both the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) and UCU.
  • has a strong commitment to the principles of justice, equality of opportunities, fairness, inclusivity and a voice for all.
  • holds branch, regional and national representative positions in UCU, including NEC membership and FE negotiator.
  • is a member of the UCU Equality and Women’s Committees.
  • has represented UCU at the TUC annual Congress,TUC Women’s Conference and TUC Women’s Committee.
  • has been chair of the TUC Women’s Committee for the last two years.

Vicky believes that:

  • in the face of relentless government and employer attacks on further and higher education, our unity is our strength.
  • our union, funded by members for members, must use democratic structures to represent the needs and aspirations of all, working in all roles across our institutions – and not be used as a vehicle to progress the agendas of any external political organisation or grouping

See below for endorsements of Vicky and her approach from a wide range of UCU members.

Continue reading

In praise of union learning

Alison Hollinrake is UCU Vice Chair and Union Learning Rep at the University of Central Lancashire. Alison has worked on a number of projects for women, most recently an iROWE project about union support for women dealing with domestic violence Here she considers the continuing role of union education in opening up horizons for working people of all ages and experience.

Alison Hollinrake

I consider myself a lifelong learner.

The start of my working life, in the mid 1970s was as a payroll clerk – at a time when women weren’t allowed to do banking exams.

A request for support – any support – from my employer of seven years for the night school, part time degree programme I wanted to enrol in during the mid 1980s was invariably brushed off with refusal and some degree of amazement that employers might be asked to pay for a degree for a ‘payroll clerk’.

Yet this was not a poor employer or one where there existed no training opportunities – it was a hi-tech engineering company with a YTS training scheme including the opportunity to achieve level 2 NVQ qualifications. It had engineering apprentices, technician trainees, a graduate development programme, supervisor training, and management development. But for lowly payroll clerks (mostly women of course), the doors were firmly shut.

I’m sure that my conviction that I ought to have been offered such opportunities had been awakened by the trade union education I had completed as a Shop Steward, Health & Safety Rep and eventually as Deputy Convenor for APEX. This came courtesy of both TUC Education and my own trade union.

I thought the creation of NVQs, and the establishment of Investors in People might just open up and provide opportunities for those in the workforce, like I had been, who traditionally were overlooked by management in terms of learning and development opportunities unlike our colleagues on the Apprenticeship, Technician, Graduate Development, Supervisory and Management development programmes. This of course has not been the case.

Like many others, I got my first degree after six years of self-funded night school. This then led to my first job in Higher Education – you could do that then!

My MSc followed and in September 2014 I was awarded my Doctorate – my research being concerned with the extent to which the union learning representative (ULR) initiative had met the expectations of its stakeholders. My research continues investigating the impact of the nature of the employment relationship on workplace learning.

I was invited to join the steering group for the North West UCU, Union Learning Fund project “UCU Women, Moving Further, Reaching Higher”  – right up my street! It was truly inspirational working with the project – highlighted on youtube here:


with the enthusiasm and commitment of the Project Manager and the National Officer reminding me why I had embarked on a career, to try to encourage workplace learning, for all employees, not just the ‘elite’ few in the first place.

From being involved in the project my branch  has benefited, and the profile of union learning has been revised – for example we have run a ‘mid-career’ development event. One lesson from this was perhaps that even members of UCU don’t always appear to appreciate how many development opportunities are available to them within our own organization and via the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) offered to us all by the union. I would say to all members to check out the latest resources – found here.

CPD front pageMy colleagues on the Branch Committee regularly participate in development programmes offered both regionally by UCU and TUC Education.  We also use the on-line resources produced by colleagues for colleagues via the UCU Women, Moving Further Reaching Higher Project – all available via the UCU web site to inform and educate us and our members in case work.

UCU branches in the North West region owe it to the project to sustain and embed the outcomes from its work, via the resources it has produced which can be a tremendous help to our branches!

I might add on a personal note, that at this stage in my career, I also appreciate the development opportunities this and other union resources offer for older workers!

Defeating the Prevent Agenda

Increasingly branches are having to deal with the imposition of the UK Government’s  ‘Prevent’ agenda. Some valuable work is being done with local NUS branches, Students Associations, and most recently the ‘Students not Suspects’ tour. Here are some observations following the recent arrival of the tour in Strathclyde University

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Douglas Chalmers, President UCU Scotland, speaking on behalf of UCU as part of the Students not Suspects tour at Strathclyde University

Horror stories about the new government measures under their Prevent ‘anti-terrorism’ agenda are becoming more widely known, and were no surprise to the audience at the recent Students not Suspects rally in Strathclyde University. These included the  accusations of supporting terrorism against a Staffordshire University student on a Masters Course on Terrorism, Crime and Global Security ( you would think a tiny clue might be in the name of the course), who was questioned while reading a course textbook called Terrorism Studies in his own university library. Previously, Nottingham Uni research student Rizwaan Sabir was wrongly accused of conducting research into terrorism – although clearly part of his doctoral research, endorsed by the university. After being detained for seven days as a ‘suspected terrorist’ he eventually won out of court damages of £20,000 from the police.

These are only two, isolated cases easy findable through a Google search. What is as bad, if not worse, are the examples of ‘self censorship’ or reticence beginning to be seen in some of our Muslim students who are aware that there is a concerted effort by the UK government to find a ‘terrorist threat’ in our universities and other public bodies – an effort which targets the Muslim communities. Continue reading

A message from Unlock Democracy

Last year, the UCU and NUS ran a joint ‘Bite the Ballot’ campaign to encourage students to register to vote. This was a substantial success, but now, the Tories are back, still aiming to remove people off the register. As usual, students will be badly hit. UCU members should contact their MPs and demand they sign the Early Day Motion, to publicise what the UK Government is planning, and help build opposition to it.

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In December, up to 1.9m people will be deleted from the voting register.

The way we register to vote is changing. Councils have been transferring everyone from the old voting register to the new one, but they haven’t finished the job. The government originally planned to give councils until December 2016 to re-register the missing voters. But over the summer they announced that they would speed up the process. Anyone who hasn’t been transferred to the new register will be deleted in December – that’s up to 1.9m people.

Why are the government rushing the job? In April, the new voting register will be used to work out new constituency boundaries for the 2020 election. Anyone who is removed from the register in December won’t be counted. That means areas with lots of voters who haven’t been transferred will get fewer seats in Parliament. Continue reading

UCU Supports Science is Vital – you can too

One of the decisions taken at the October meeting of the HEC was to support the ‘Science is Vital’ initiative. The video below shows Ben Goldacre and why he supports the campaign. Our union does too, so we would ask branches to take part in the activity mentioned below and ensure science is safeguarded for future generations. Below, there is an e-mail from the chair of the campaign asking for everyone to get behind it and giving more details of how you can be more involved.

Dr Jennifer Rohn, Chair, Science is Vital who is a Principal Research Associate at University College London has written to all the supporters of the campaign to say:
Science is Vital needs your help. Funding for science and engineering in the UK is once again under serious threat, and we are asking our supporters to help ensure that our new campaign makes as much impact as possible on the government as it prepares for the Comprehensive Spending Review in November.

If you want to help, here’s what you can do. If you want to find out more, see below.

– Send a postcard to George Osborne telling him why science is vital to you at
– Come to our rally in London on 26 October – tickets available here – attend a local party or watch the live-stream
– Spread the word – forward this email to friends and family (including non-scientists), and if you use social media (#scienceisvital), share our campaign page:

Continue reading