Your Bristol UCU Newsflash, 13th September 2017

1) PhDs Go Free

If you’re a PhD student and are teaching, it is now free to join University of Bristol UCU. All part of ‘Transforming UCU’:

“Effective from 1 October 2017, if you are a PhD teaching in HE…UCU will make your union membership free”

Now no financial reason for PhD students teaching at the University of Bristol not to join UCU. Free membership will go a long way to address the ‘age gap’ in UCU. Currently the number of UCU membership amongst those staff under 35 is very low.

Recruiting young UCU members means that their priorities — casualised contracts, professional development, research autonomy — will be branch priorities going forward.

Please publicise this offer to all PGRs and to PGRs networks and mailing lists. And watch out for our branch recruitment drive.

2) USS

The USS pension scheme is very much back on the HE agenda. National stories of doom and gloom and initial reports of a deficit of over £17 billion are overblown, but the USS Trustees current assumptions suggest a deficit of £5 billion and have set the context for yet more cuts in benefits or a rise in contributions (from employers and/or employees).

UCU has been adamant. We do not sign off on the fundamental assumptions behind the deficit [PDF]. We do not agree with the approach taken to value the scheme. It is overly cautious and pessimistic. UCU has consistently promoted an alternative method of valuation [PDF].

USS itself says that the notional deficit is very sensitive to the assumptions it makes. It has shared those assumptions with our employers for consultation behind closed doors but has not made them public. So how can we judge the deficit claim?

Please sign this petition calling on USS to release a 58-page report, sent to our and other University Finance Directors:

Locally, Bristol UCU is planning to continue our lobbying efforts and arranging a meeting with the Finance Director. This follows on from discussions earlier this year [PDF].

3) New Term

As the new term approaches, Bristol UCU continues to represent members on a range of issues.

To name but a few, these include workload, revisions to promotion and progression, the fair treatment of casualised staff in the Faculty of Arts, members affected by restructurings and changes to the policies on the personal relationships of staff.

See our recent P2 research staff submission [PDF].

Traction on these issues involves the support of members. UCU takes up these issues (and others) at the Joint Consultative and Negotiation Committee (JCNC) and Faculty/Division Joint Trade Union (JTU) meetings.

JCNC/JTU: more UoB initialisms! But it’s here (and their associated meetings) where union business is meant to be conducted. They are where Bristol UCU members interests are formally advanced. If you have anything your want to raise, or want to know what we are negotiating, email

4) Academic Related/ Professional Service Survey

UCU are conducting a survey of Academic Related/ Professional Service staff in pre-92 universities to better understand key issues affecting you as workers.

The survey will inform the work that UCU and its Academic Related Professional Staff Committee does. All data will be anonymised:

5) A Brief History of VCs’ Pay

Sally Hunt writes in the Times Higher on the largess of VC pay and perks:

Fran Abrams on the huge pay rises feathering vice-chancellors’ retirement nests: ‘in the past three years, academics’ pay has risen by just 3.1%, while that of vice-chancellors has increased 11.1%’. T. Former VC Sir Eric Thomas’s £2,000,000 pension pot is example number 1: