Bristol UCU Newsflash, 20th January 2021

1) In-Person, F2F Teaching Dispute Latest

Firstly, Happy New Year to Bristol UCU members.

As we finish TB1 and enter TB2, teaching, except for ‘certain subjects [link] such as Medicine and Dentistry, is now online to at least February 15th, with ‘planning for teaching to remain online until Easter, if necessary’.

Our branch headline demand, ‘an immediate cessation of unnecessary face-to-face, in-person teaching at the University of Bristol, with an immediate transition to online learning in all possible areas, for at least Teaching Block 1 of 2020-21‘, has been met, albeit because of the announcement of lockdown #3 and UK HE’s incorporation of the government’s guidance.

We have our final Dispute Resolution meeting early next week. Branch negotiators plan to use that meeting to make the case for the University to commit to teach online until at least Easter, as other universities have done.

It is now a wider question for members if they wish to extend the dispute and change its terms. With in-person teaching still not ruled out past February 15th, members may be minded to update the terms of the dispute. Branch reps welcome members’ feedback on this question: please speak to your School or PS rep, or email

At our last Executive meeting on 5th January, the consensus was not to commit to conclude the dispute at this stage, but to seek assurances from the University over online teaching past February 15th.


2) Open Letter – USS Valuation Complaint

Please sign this letter, drafted by our Bristol UCU Pension Officer:

The letter seeks ‘to collectively raise a complaint through the USS Internal Dispute Resolution procedure which operates under Section 78 of the USS Scheme rules’ as ‘the changes to the USS valuation methodology proposed by the Trustee in the USS Valuation Consultation 2020 have little empirical or theoretical justification. The proposals could lead to the scheme overcharging USS members and employers’.

3) Welcome to New Branch Anti-Casualisation Officers –Jeff Pocock and Kit Fotheringham

For more information, Jeff’s and Kit’s bios and how to get in touch, see our Bristol UCU blog post ‘New Anti-Casualisation Officers – Jeff Pocock and Kit Fotheringham’ [link].

4) Workload, Furloughing and Dependents’ Leave

To note that current workload is overwhelming is somewhat of an understatement. Take an ‘average’ academic member, for example. Transitioning to online learning, supporting students, marking, preparing for this coming term, funding applications, programme reviews, unit design, essential career development. And research. And REF (supposedly paused). And one could go on.

This, though, is not an academic issue, as members of our branch Professional Service Rep Group (meeting Monday next week @12) can testify to. Staff are already working to capacity, but more is constantly asked. Our School Admin Teams, for example, report a huge increase in workload because of the sudden lockdown #3 extenuating circumstances rule changes.

Something has to give; something has to be parked. While the individual policy of ‘best endeavours’ goes some way to recognize the current excessive workload, UCU branch reps are keen to identify work that can either be parked for the time being, or simply does not need to be done.

At our Joint Consultative and Negotiation Committee (JCNC) meeting yesterday, UCU reps and University Officers agreed to work together to establish if any ‘processes’, general programmes of work or initiatives can be halted.

Members are encouraged to suggest what these should be:

On furloughing and dependents’ leave [link], the University’s current position is to deal with issues around furloughing for childcare (or for adult dependents) on an individual, case-by-case basis. Bristol UCU caseworkers will naturally represent members in such cases.