UCU Ballot Rules

Message to all UCU members.
The first rule of UCU Ballot Club is “Vote”
The second rule of UCU Ballot Club is “VOTE!”
There is no third rule.
Firstly – apologies for this shameless rip off of Fight Club – but hopefully you get the message.
USS are willfully ignoring the reasonable and affordable recommendations of the Joint Expert Panel.
Your employer’s representatives Universities UK are refusing to pressure USS into adopting the proposal that costs them the least whilst protecting member benefits.
It appears then that our employers’ and USS’s commitment to the Joint Expert Panel was at the very least disingenuous, and possibly intentionally dishonest.
There is a real danger of USS pushing through increasingly costly reforms in the name of financial sustainability, contrary to JEP recommendations.
The consequence of that could be two-fold. Employers leave the scheme thus making it less robust, and remaining Employers return to the defined benefit proposal leaving members with poorer pensions and all of the risk.
There is only one way to protect our pensions – vote YES in the UCU ballot.
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Whistle blow-up

Readers may recognise the name of Jane Hutton, a USS Trustee that after much soul searching blew the whistle to the Pension Regulator (TPR) on USS’s failure to provide her with details of their valuation.   Jane merely wanted to exercise her duty as a trustee and make her own judgement on the accuracy of that valuation, fearing (as many do) that the deficit was exaggerated.
It is alarming then to hear that Jane has lost her position as non-executive Director of the Board of Trustees for breaching “her duties as a director under company law and contract”, code for “sacked for breaking rank”.
As one would expect, UCU have expressed their deep concerns at this development, which only serves to raise further questions about how our pension is being managed and indeed for who’s benefit.

Reverse Robin Hood

Members will be perplexed that our employers OWN research recognises the diminution of the real-terms value of HE sector salaries whilst at the same time refusing to meet our moderate demands for a pay increase of RPI +3%.   UCEA have identified a 17% loss of pay since 2009; UCU believes the figure to be 20.8%.
At the same time the sector has seen unprecedented growth in income and record reserves.
It is cold comfort to learn that the “back pockets” of our employers are bulging with the ill gotten gains of a concerted squeeze on staff pay.

An Audience With….

One interesting feature of the recent “Audience with Shirley Congdon” was the opportunity to submit questions to an on-line feed, and to “like” questions, thus pushing them up the popularity charts.
This worked particularly well once contributors worked out how to post anonymously, which perhaps led to more searching questions being asked than might otherwise have been the case.
A shame then that just as those more searching questions began to emerge the session – scheduled to finish at 11:30 am – was brought to a halt at 11:00 am.

Speculate to Accumulate UPDATED

Word reached the LA recently of a former employee for whom emeritus status was deemed inappropriate despite this being an unpaid role, the applicant having a solid research track record, and offering to continue to be active in supporting research PG’s after retirement.
Since our original blog post the news has already reached a number of respected senior staff at Imperial College, London University and Glasgow, all of whom are in their own words “aghast at the decision”

The decision exposes a flaw in the revised list of qualifying criteria that requires that the academic can demonstrate ongoing research intent that will benefit the institution, ignoring the possibility that research opportunities may well emerge down the line even if there are none evident at the point of consideration.

In this case the decision has been made – and our former colleague has successfully bagged a significant research grant within weeks of it!

Still, at least there’s a saving in salary…..not!

NSS Results Cause for Concern

UCU welcomes the recently publicised core objectives of our VC Elect and in particular the desire to re-focus on teaching and learning and the student experience.

Whilst perhaps not entirely unexpected as an ambition, it will be interesting to see whether a renewed strategy can make a difference, although given our parlous performance in the most recent NSS survey where we sit just 7 places off the bottom and are the worst performing of all pre-92 institutions, improvement from such a low base ought to be relatively straightforward.

UCU has continually expressed its concerns at the adverse impact of successive staffing cuts to the student experience. Regular readers may recall our resume of our declining NSS performance – and these results offer little to change that view.

UCU believes that just like alcoholism the first step to recovery is to acknowledge that you have a problem.  It is perplexing then to see that rather than sharing results widely across the university it appears that only parts of the institution are being furnished with that information.   One hopes that a rather more transparent approach is just around the corner.

Distressing news from our neighbours Bradford College where it would seem that continued mismanagement has culminated in the announcement of another restructuring and yet more job losses, around 131 this time.
Implementation is moving swiftly, with distressing tales of staff crying in corridors.

Meanwhile, across the City a new College is being built to accommodate a restructured 6th Form provision for the district.   The site, close to the Interchange, was originally acquired for development of a new leisure centre as part of the City’s rationalisation of locally based provision, a scheme that ultimately was scaled down due to a lack of funds, leaving BMDC with a site but no plans, and more importantly the embarrassment of expending precious funds on a surplus piece of estate.

One has to question the wisdom of building additional provision for learning when Bradford College is well placed to accommodate that need.   To do so on a site that is outside the Learning Quarter suggests that this is an expensive “fig leaf” intended to save the city from further embarrassment.

“Fig Leaf House” stands as testament to a lack of joined up thinking over the provision of education in the City which is at least indirectly leading to colleagues at Bradford College limping from one period of insecurity to another.

UCU Bradford University LA sends its support to College colleagues.