Your Bristol UCU Newsflash, 29th June

1) Brexit Uncertainty

Although still very much in the planning stage, Bristol UCU is organising an event in response to the Brexit crisis in HE, the effect it will have on staff and students here at Bristol, and most importantly, what we can do to defend colleagues whose jobs may under threat.

To repeat: very much in the planning stage (all TBC) but given recent events, not mention to it would be ignoring the proverbial pachyderm in the room. Watch this space

2) Industrial Action

Thanks to everyone who took part in the industrial action on the 17th.

Thanks to the solidarity shown by colleagues in those Schools and Departments where Open Day talks were cancelled. Thanks to colleagues who have resigned as external examiners and are currently working to contract.

This week, colleagues at University of Arts London, Aberdeen, Queen Mary, Royal Holloway, Queen’s University Belfast, University of Surrey, Falmouth University, Sheffield Hallam University, South Wales, Loughborough University, Newcastle, Cardiff and Durham at taking action on open days. To name but only a few institutions taking action.

UCU Higher Education Committee meets on 1st July to discuss the success of our pay campaign and to discuss our current strategy.

UCU is committed to moving to a setting, marking and assessment boycott early in the Autumn term, and further strike action unless the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA), return to the negotiating table.

With Vice-Chancellors pay booming – vice-chancellors enjoying a 6.1% pay in 2014/15 – casual contracts ever more the natural condition of academic labour – 49% of university teachers are on insecure contracts; 56% here at Bristol – and University cash reserves at over £21bn, isn’t it time UCEA did the decent thing and commit to a reduction in the use of casual contracts, commit to closing the gender pay gap -on average, female academics are paid £6,103 less a than their male counterparts – by 2020, and commit to investing in their most productive asset, staff, by addressing the 14.5% cut in pay since 2009.

3) Restructurings

There are a number of University restructurings at the moment, the casework arising from these is taking up a lot of our caseworkers’ time and energy.

As things stand, the restructurings include the International Office, the Graduate School of Education, Archaeology and Anthropology, Communications and Marketing, Institute for Advanced Study, Careers Service, and Student Recruitment, Access and Admissions.

Change management is very much on the cards. This in turn leads to profound concerns on Bristol UCU’s part around keeping members in the loop and the need to supply rationales for change. Unfortunately, this is far from uniform despite well-documented procedure.

4) Recording Educational Activities Policy

The latest on lecture capture, as regards Bristol UCU’s efforts to keep a flexible opt-out for lecturing staff, is, to quote from the Mediasite Project Board 16th June update, the following:

The Mediasite Project Board has reviewed the Policy for Recording Educational Activities (PDF) and recommends keeping the Policy substantially unchanged for the remainder of the Mediasite Project which will run until December 2016.

Minor presentational changes have been made in the above version, and the date of expiry of the opt-out clause has been amended to December 2016. This extension will allow time for the Board to consult with HR, Legal Services and the Unions before recommending any changes to the policy agreed for the year 15/16.

Opt-out requests received in the year 15/16 expire at the end of the academic year and new requests will need to be made in respect of any opt-outs for the year 16/17.
If you would like to opt your unit out of recording in the 2016/17 academic year, please visit the How To section within the Help and support pages.

5) The Higher Education Bill and the Alternative White Paper For Higher Education

As the hitherto less dangerous of the Johnson brothers now seems determined to push through the Higher Education Bill, unfortunately the Teaching Excellence Framework and the further one-sided metricization of intellectual activity in our universities is very much on the cards, despite our HE Brexistential crisis.

UCU (and Bristol UCU for that matter) have a clear position on the Bill and the White Paper: to take forward a national campaign against the HE Bill, to reaffirm its commitment to a publicly funded university sector and to boycott the TEF.

UCU was also asked to circulate copies of a recent initiative: The Alternative White Paper: In Defence of Public Higher Education: Knowledge for a Successful Society.

Bristol UCU has order 50 copies of the Alternative White Paper published by the Convention for Higher Education.

If you would like a copy, please let know. The price? That you promise to attend an Alternative White Paper-themed event organised by Bristol UCU.

6) Save London Met!

A foretaste of HE Bill orthodoxy: please sign in advance of the London Metropolitan University Board of Governors when they meet on Thursday June 30.

For more details:

7) Convoy to Calais

Bristol UCU made a donation of £150 to the recent Convoy to Calais.

8) UCU Report ‘Academics Work Two Days A Week Unpaid’

On reading ‘Our Vision, Our Strategy’, approved by Senate and signed off by the Board of Trustees at the end of May, one word is conspicuously missing: workload.

Workload continues to be the issue and is a key priority of Bristol UCU.

Our recent Workload and Well-Being Survey revealed: 87% of UCU members report working more than contracted hours. 58% feel their responsibilities do not allow for a healthy work-life balance with 55% feel the University takes advantage of them.

You may have also seen a UCU report which noted ‘academics work two days a week unpaid’: