Your Bristol UCU Newsflash, 27th January 2016

1) Teaching Excellence Framework

Thank you to everyone who came to From REF to TEF last Thursday. It was a very informative discussion, with contributions very much representative of the general HE scepticism, if not downright opposition towards the proposed Teaching Excellence Framework.

Interestingly, a great deal of the discussion focussed on how we – UCU; academics; students – can oppose TEF.

UCU has now published its response to the Green Pape (PDF). It notes that ‘the voice of academic and academic-related, professional staff is missing from the entire green paper’ (PDF). TEF ‘offers very little for staff who do the teaching and support learning in higher education’. UCU is ‘opposed to linking TEF scores to tuition fees, the privileging of flawed proxy metrics as indicators of ‘quality’ and the increased bureaucracy and institutional game playing that will result in implementing the TEF’ (PDF).

In a recent Guardian piece Sally Hunt (‘Want to improve teaching in universities? Value those who teach’) has also made it clear that the debate around teaching should be directed at the casualisation of teaching-focused staff at our Universities, and at the need to invest in teaching

Of interest, WonkHE has collated a number of HE sector responses to the Green Paper. Plus, a recent University of Reading study has highlighted how ‘biased’ students give BME academics lower NSS scores. Don’t forget: we also have our Bristol and Bath UCU statement.

2) Pay Campaign

Our falling pay – a 13% cut since 2008 – is set to be a major focus in the next few months.

UCU Higher Education Committee (HEC) met last week. It approved the development of a focused pay claim based on the principles of ‘pay catch up and keep up’.

Starting now, UCU is committed to a nationwide, University-wide pay campaign, submitting our pay claim for 2016/2017, along with other Higher Education Unions, in the first week of February.

We will also be looking to close the gender pay gap, as well as reducing the sector’s reliance on forms of casual employment.

3) Workload and Well-Being Survey Results

As discussed at our General Meeting last week, we are currently preparing a report on the findings of our recent Workload and Well-Being Survey.

Some headline figures for you:

  • 85% of respondents said their workload in their current role has increased in the last five years
  • 49% work over their contracted hours
  • 59% strongly disagree or disagree that their work responsibilities allow them a healthy work life balance
  • 65% strongly disagree or disagree that the University takes the issue of workload seriously

4) Progression and Promotion on Pathways 2 and 3

Bristol UCU reps have been meeting with various University managers to discuss the lack of progression and promotion opportunities for staff in research and teaching-focused roles. Recent casework and representations from members have demonstrated that Bristol is not doing enough to retain and develop talented researchers and teaching staff.

As highlighted at our General Meeting, making these roles more progressable is our key concern. As things stand, in this current Vision and Strategy conjuncture, this is very much a live issue – pathways 2 and 3 are potentially going to be reviewed.

In terms of pathway 3, teaching-focused staff, we have had assurances that the intention is to set up a formal structure similar to the one for Research Staff (a Teaching Staff Reps Group for example). Also, general confusion around progression for teaching-focussed staff needs to be addressed.

In terms of pathway 2 staff, our Bristol UCU Research Staff Rep Scott Greenwell will now sit on the Research Staff Working Party.

A fruitful meeting with the Chair of the Working Party was held last week. Issues included a draft guidance document primarily for Principal Investigators to use when submitting grant costings – this should enable PIs to make roles progressable in their FEC costings; addressing progression from profile a to b (Research Assistant/Associate to Associate/Senior Associate) which for some staff is easily achieved but much more difficult for others; the applicability of research role profiles for Science staff (which is where the local profiles originated apparently) and Arts (where research and teaching staff are often working at a level ‘above’ their role profile).

5) If you’re not a member we can’t help…

Recent casework has prompted Bristol UCU Executive to revisit at our current policy of representing new members who join with a ‘pre-existing’ problem. Please see our last Newsflash for further details.

It is a difficult choice for the Executive to make, so we would welcome your thoughts. Please email

6) Support Our Junior Doctors, Thursday, 4th February, Lecture Theatre 1.4, Medical School 18:00-20:30

The next meeting of the Support Our Junior Doctors and NHS Student campaign is next week in the University of Bristol Medical School.

Supported by several local unions and activist groups, this meeting is called in advance of the Sunday 7th February March, 11.30am, College Green, to protest for a safer, fairer contract for junior doctors!