UCU initial comment on higher education white paper

UCU has warned that the rapid expansion of private university provision which gives new providers the power to award degrees from day one will endanger the UK’s hard won global reputation for excellence.

UCU also said it was ‘hard to see’ how the proposed teaching excellence framework (TEF) would improve teaching quality, suggesting that the government should focus instead on tackling job insecurity amongst teaching staff and ensuring that academic careers are attractive to the brightest talent.

For the full article visit the UCU website.

‘Rate for the Job’ tool released on UCU website

 

‘Rate for the job’ is UCU’s new online tool to enable you to find out more about your pay.  HE rate for the jobCreate a report based on your own salary. Compared with other staff in your institution and other workplaces. Find the best payer.

And find out how much pay you have lost in recent years due to low settlements.

To get the most from this tool, you will need your membership number.  If you do not have this please contact us and we can find it for you.

Non-members should head to the ‘lite’ version of the tool here.

UCU confirms two-day strike at UK universities in May

UCU has confirmed plans for a two-day national strike at UK universities as part of an ongoing dispute over pay.

UCU members in higher education will walk out on Wednesday 25 and Thursday 26 May. Staff will also begin working to contract from 25 May, which means they will refuse to work overtime, set additional work or undertake any voluntary duties like covering timetabled classes for absent colleagues.

If no agreement is reached in the coming weeks, members have agreed to target further strike action in June and July, and are considering additional action in August to coincide with the release of A-level results. The union is also beginning preparations for a boycott of the setting and marking of students’ work, to begin in the autumn if an acceptable offer has still not been made.

Newsletter – May 2016

The latest UCU Warwick newsletter has now been published.

UCU Newsletter May 2016

HE Green Paper & Prevent

The Green Paper and Prevent are two key facets of a general assault on the fundamental principles of public higher education – accessibility, democracy and academic freedom.

This article explains why the Green Paper is so dangerous for members of the UCU and why we must continue to be part of nation-wide struggle to stop it

Trade dispute between UCU and employers concerning the 2016/17 claim regarding pay and terms and conditions

The ballot closed at noon on 4th May 2016. Almost two thirds (65.4%) of members who voted backed strike action and over three quarters (77.3%) voted for action short of a strike.

Pay a Living Wage!

UCU, together with the other campus unions, is putting pressure on University management to pay the Living Wage to all staff.

Angry and Ashamed – Pay Attention to Pay or Pay the Price

Pay of people on the main 51-point salary scale has declined by 14.5% since 2009/10, even though annual surpluses across the sector have increased by 74.7% and reserves are up by 57.4%.

Talking Union – TUC Interactive guide

TUC have published a guide to help you talk ‘Union’ to your colleagues.

Casework support – A note of caution

Each year we get many requests for support from people who have joined with issues in progress and wish to access support.  The Union is a self-help group, not a service which people pay for and we are keen to hold ourselves to that ethos.

Calling for new caseworkers

We are looking for new members to join our existing group of caseworkers.  Full formal training is provided and there are many opportunities to learn informally from members of our dedicated team.

Warwick UCU Website revamp

The Warwick UCU website has been revamped – we would be interested in hearing your views on this.

Trade Dispute Ballot Results

Trade dispute between UCU and employers concerning the 2016/17 claim regarding pay and terms and conditions

The ballot closed at noon on 4th May 2016. The response to the question you were balloted on is as follows:

Are you prepared to take industrial action consisting of strike action?
Number of ballot papers returned: 21,141
Number voting YES: 13,775 (65.4%)
Number voting NO: 7,292 (34.6%)
Number of papers found to be invalid: 74

Are you prepared to take industrial action consisting of action short of a strike?
Number of ballot papers returned: 21,141
Number voting YES: 16,270 (77.3%)
Number voting NO: 4,770 (22.7%)
Number of papers found to be invalid: 101

You can view the full scrutineer’s report here.

UCU News https://www.ucu.org.uk/article/8205/UCU-members-in-higher-education-vote-for-strike-action-in-national-row-over-pay

Vote Yes

Vote yes in the HE pay ballot

Across the entire HE sector, people like you are being underpaid, made to work under unfair conditions and discriminated against, while vice-chancellors, principals and other top staff are earning almost SEVEN times as much as the average worker.

  • UNFAIR LOWER PAY: YOUR pay has decreased by 14.5% in just six years compared to the rate of inflation – while the cost of living keeps rising
  • SHAMEFUL GENDER INEQUALITY: female academics are paid £6,103 per year LESS than male counterparts
  • SCANDALOUS CASUALISED WORK: more than 21,000 teaching staff are on zero-hours contracts
  • NO JOB SECURITY: over TWO THIRDS of research staff are stuck on fixed-term contracts.

What can I do about it?

First of all – make sure you VOTE before 4 May.

Please ensure that you complete and return your ballot paper as soon as possible.

Gone but Not Forgotten: Absent Friends in Life Science and Warwick Medical Schools

Nearly two years ago, management announced that there was to be a whole-scale review of the School of Life Sciences, followed by a whole-scale review of Warwick Medical School. Allegedly, these two departments had failed to generate enough income and staffing costs were to be dramatically reduced. The most shocking aspect of the proposal from UCU’s point of view was the university’s insistence that academic staff should be sacked on the basis of a single financial metric (research grant income) and that this measure should be applied retrospectively for the previous four-year period.

Over 2,000 people signed an online petition[1] calling on the Vice-Chancellor to abandon this “very radical approach” because it was “profoundly damaging to academic life and the quality of research at the University of Warwick”. Did management listen to any of form of dissent or counter-argument? Seemingly not. The review went ahead exactly as intended, and nearly 40 members of staff left the university, including a number of highly-skilled professional staff.

For sure, the university needs to exercise proper financial oversight. We’d be the first to complain if our salaries weren’t paid. BUT, it is unethical and counter-productive to value an academic’s contribution solely in terms of grant income, without reference to any other aspect of their job description. And it is doubly heinous to do so retrospectively. We would like to think that Warwick will never repeat what can only be described as a new low in its treatment of staff.

The picture shows Warwick UCU President, Dr. Justine Mercer, presenting the petition to the Deputy Registrar. We were denied permission to present it directly to the Vice-Chancellor, though we understand it will be reported to Steering and Council.

[1]  The full text of the online petition read:

The University of Warwick is currently undertaking a series of redundancy exercises predicated on the notion that successful grant applications are the key measure of performance and value for research staff.  This is a very radical approach, not widely adopted in the sector, and we believe it is profoundly damaging to academic life and the quality of research at the University of Warwick.  We, the undersigned, call on the Vice-Chancellor to end this damaging and dangerous practice.

UCU Petition
Warwick UCU President, Dr. Justine Mercer, presenting the petition to the Deputy Registrar.

Supporting the Junior Doctors Strike on Wednesday 27 April

Warwick UCU branch sends solidarity to the junior doctors today and tomorrow.

We will be coming along to the picket line at Warwick Hospital ( Warwick Hospital, Lakin Road, Warwick CV34 5BW ) at 08:30 tomorrow morning to show our support in person. As university workers busy resisting the destructive measures proposed by the government Higher Education Green Paper, we are inspired by your actions.

In both education and the NHS we know that protecting working conditions is also about protecting the rights of students and patients and defending our public services for everybody.

Press Release – Friday 11th March 2016 Warwick Assembly

University of Warwick assembly passes motions to condemn Higher Education Green Paper and to do no more than the absolute ‘minimum legal obligation’ to satisfy Prevent

Today a democratic Assembly called by staff at the University of Warwick passed two motions, one condemning Jo Johnson’s Higher Education Green Paper and the second requiring the University do no more than the absolute legal minimum to satisfy the Home Office’s Prevent program.

Green Paper

Speaking for the first motion, Dr. Laura Schwartz, Assistant Professor in Modern British History, stated that “this Green Paper is potentially the death knell of public higher education in this country”, directly threatening the University’s core educational mission.

The ‘Teaching Excellence Framework’ (TEF), colloquially described as the ‘Tuition Escalation Framework’, had been torn apart by Warwick’s own consultation submission as being potentially “damaging to the international reputation of our universities”.

Complaints included the possibility of academic rigor being sacrificed in order to promote higher student satisfaction and the burdening of students with unsustainable levels of debt thanks to rising tuition. Dr. Schwartz highlighted that opposition to the Green Paper has been widespread, including the Vice Chancellors at Cambridge, Oxford and other Russell Group institutions.

Prevent

The second motion targeted the Government’s Prevent program which requires University staff to report students they believed to be at risk of ‘radicalisation’, an instruction that has already led to the disproportionate and discriminatory targeting of Muslim and Black and Minority staff and students.

The motion under vote called on the Vice Chancellor to conduct meaningful consultation on prevent, in advance of its April 2016 submission to HEFCE. Experts on counter-terror legislation, policy and practice, voiced their discontent at the insidious nature of the confused prevent policy which had the potential to stifle academic freedom, while contradicting requirements under both the Human Rights and Education Acts.

The Assembly noted the widespread opposition to the policy on campus, with hundreds of University staff and students having signed an open letter to the Vice Chancellor in just over three weeks. The Assembly resolved to make sure that the University did no more than the absolute minimum to satisfy the requirements of Prevent.

As Dr. Jusine Mercer, Associate Professor in the Centre for Education Studies, noted: “The Prevent strategy… damages our community by fostering an environment of surveillance, paranoia and racism. It encourages the continual monitoring of both staff and students. It destroys the trust needed for a safe and supportive learning environment.”

The mood in the Assembly was overwhelmingly supportive of both motions with members of staff from across the university noting the ways in which the changes threaten the University’s public mission, and undermine academic freedom.

The Assembly at Warwick fits into a larger pattern of mobilization against the Green Paper and Prevent occurring at higher education institutions around the country.

Staff coming leaving the assembly were greeted by students who had gathered in solidarity. Both claim that the successful assembly is an important step in support for further action locally and nationally. Warwick for Free Education spokesperson, Hope Worsdale commented that “students are delighted by the outcome of the Assembly, and will continue in their actions alongside staff, to campaign for a free and progressive education system.”

Further information and background on the Green Paper:

Further information and background on Prevent

Obituary: Dwijen Rangnekar

The UCU is saddened to hear of the death of our colleague and friend, Dr Dwijen Rangnekar, Associate Professor at the Warwick Law School. Dwijen passed away in New Delhi, surrounded by his family and friends after a long battle with cancer.  It is really difficult to accept that Dwijen has gone for he met life with irresistible charm, infinite celebration and an irascible humour.

Dwijen was an exemplar of a scholar who crossed cultural and intellectual boundaries in his scholarship and professional life. Trained as an economist he was hired as a joint appointment with Politics and International Studies and the Law School at Warwick and moved later to Warwick Law School. He was not only a scholar but an activist believing in the power of scholarship to effect social and political change. Dwijen’s scholarship challenged conventional understandings of intellectual property and he was particularly concerned with how these legal rights can impact on development prospects and food security of countries in the south.

His work on intellectual property rights, in particular on geographical indicators and the Goan drink of feni, were path breaking.  His ESRC project was titled: Localising Economic Control Through Clubs: Examining the Intellectual Property Protection of Feni in Goa, India. His yet to be published manuscript on Feni cuts across diverse disciplines inaugurating new directions in interdisciplinary research; and brings life to an area of research otherwise colonised by obscure legal language.  The fact that he could also share this drink with his friends and colleagues was as much a cause for hilarity as it was for camaraderie; both underlined Dwijen’s good humour and sharing nature.

Dwijen was a fighter against injustice and supported many causes, academic and non-academic, to make the world a better place. He was very generous with his time, especially with young scholars, fought tirelessly for colleagues as a representative of the UCU, gave lots of advice to new departmental UCU reps and showed his active solidarity for hourly paid tutors in the campaign against Teach Higher in the summer.

Culturally, he was a supporter of the arts, introducing his friends and colleagues to the beautiful sounds of what is popularly termed ‘world music’. In his quiet, unassuming way, Dwijen challenged traditional and Eurocentric constructions of scholarship, arts and popular culture.

Dwijen will be greatly missed by his students and colleagues in the Law School, colleagues in the Union, and in the wider university community.

The words above have been amalgamated from messages from colleagues and friends.

 

A tribute to Dwijen on the School of Law website:

http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/law/people/rangnekar